The Human Face of Fraud: Cecilie Fjellhøy's Fight Against the "Tinder Swindler"

Mar 06, 2024

MRC Barcelona 2024 is set to unite the payments and financial services community, focusing on fraud prevention and risk management. This event showcases leading experts and groundbreaking solutions, offering unparalleled opportunities for professional growth and innovation. Among this year's highlights is keynote speaker Cecilie Fjellhøy, who became widely recognized following her involvement with the infamous 'Tinder Swindler' Simon Leviev.

Cecilie, a Norwegian native, found herself ensnared in a sophisticated web of deceit spun by Leviev, who presented himself as a wealthy businessman. This encounter led her down a path of emotional and financial turmoil, ultimately revealing the harsh realities of online dating fraud. Cecilie's story, marked by betrayal, courage, and recovery, has not only captured the attention of global media but also sparked crucial conversations about the psychological tactics used by fraudsters and the pressing need for stronger protective measures in the digital realm.

In her keynote session at MRC Barcelona 2024, Cecilie will share her journey from victim to advocate, offering insights into the signs of online fraud that she learned the hard way, and emphasizing the critical importance of awareness, prevention, and resilience in the face of digital threats. Attendees will leave with a deeper understanding of the human aspect of fraud, equipped with knowledge to better protect themselves and their organizations.

“Having victims up on stage having personal stories is so important. It's different than seeing it in a documentary,” says Cecilie. “I'm showing a human face to fraud and the actual realities of what you're left with to handle.”

What to Expect from Cecilie’s Keynote

“I'll go through the methods that he used; the grooming, manipulation, and I will show examples of that. I’ll also show some video from when I confronted Simon in Israel. It ended up quite funny.” She’ll also speak about what qualities fraudsters like Leviev look for when selecting a target. “These are good qualities that you want the people around you to have, but they are also the qualities that make one a perfect target for fraud.”

Cecilie will also speak about the re-victimization that fraud victims endure at the hands of people they go to for help.

“If you're lucky, and if you come to the banks and police with the right paperwork and the right things to say, they might take it seriously, but I’ll speak about how I was met by the police and the banks.” In short, Cecilie came up against much victim-blaming, criticism for trusting Leviev, and insinuating she freely gave her money away to him.

“I talk as well about the language that we're using. Words like “fell for it,” or “tricked,” she says. “That word really gets to me. This is not a prank or a joke. This is a serious economic crime. You don't say that about[LL1]  any other types of crime. You don't put the responsibility on the victim.”

And she warns that these kinds of scams are not as uncommon a problem as you might think. “The numbers of romance fraud are rising just between 5-15% of victims are reporting it. I go all over the world,” Cecilie says, “and every time I do a talk, someone comes up to me and says, ‘I have a friend or family member who’s going through this, what can we do?’”

Many times, victims are resistant to warnings from concerned loved ones because they understandably do not want to believe they’ve been defrauded. Fortunately, there’s an organization that can help victims, friends, and family get help.

LoveSaid Organization Hopes to be a Soft Spot to Land for Victims

Cecilie recently joined forces with fellow fraud target Anna Rowe to launch LoveSaid, an organization dedicated to changing the stigma associated with emotional scams for both victims and society. Their mission emphasizes prevention, support, and empowerment, focusing on assisting those who have been affected by emotional scams.

Somewhat frustratingly, the victim often needs to arrive at that understanding on their own to believe they’ve been taken advantage of. “Sometimes it’s as easy as putting that little seed of doubt that something isn't right, and in their gut and maybe with time, they come to understand.”

“We have a library of different resources to show your loved one what kind of scam they’re in and different tools they can use like reverse image searches, fetching IP addresses,” Cecilie explains. “We take them on the journey, so the victim comes to the realization themselves.”

Hope for the Future

Despite the negative experience she suffered at the hands of banks, credit card issuers, and other financial institutions, Cecilie remains hopeful that they will take these scams seriously and help victims in the future.

“Banks can stop these transactions. It grinds my gears when they say, ‘Well it’s their money and they can do what they want with it’,” she says. “If you see a crime like this happening and do nothing, aren’t you helping them commit that crime then? We all need to work together.”

There is no shortage of potential victims out there. Even the police who are willing to help these victims, she says, are eager for LoveSaid to receive adequate funding to launch and expand operations.

“They simply don't have the capacity,” she explains. “Every time we're in the media just here in the UK – even if it’s a radio show at 12:30 on a Tuesday, we have 10-15 people writing to us for help. Can you imagine how many others there are?”


Join us at MRC Barcelona 2024 for a compelling exploration of the complexities of modern fraud, through the eyes of someone who lived to tell the tale. Cecilie Fjellhøy's keynote is not just a session; it's a call to action, a story of survival, and a lesson in vigilance that resonates with all of us in the digital age.





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