Tinder Swindler: an argument for online identity verification
The Tinder Swindler is a British true crime documentary film about the Israeli conman Simon Leviev (born Shimon Hayut) who used the dating application Tinder to connect with individuals who he then emotionally manipulated into financially supporting his lavish lifestyle on the pretense that he needed the money to escape his enemies.
First, the movie review...
What a terribly boring movie! Oh wait… it is more than 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes? Well then, apologies, what a great movie!
It is clear that PXL Vision is not in the movie review business. We are, however, in the online identity verification business. And our product fits the theme of Tinder Swindler – where, Simon Leviev, a conman, pretends to be an ultra-wealthy, jet-setting diamond mogul, by faking his identity on Tinder.
Leviev uses Tinder to match with women interested in a relationship with him. Once the algorithmic magic is complete, the women are quickly propelled into an exciting world of five-star hotels and private jet flights. Unbeknownst to these women, however, is that these luxuries are being paid for by the women that came before them.
Importantly, Leviev has enemies (albeit made-up ones) that are out to get him. He mentions this after a few dates but never goes into much detail. This is the premise that Leviev uses to begin extorting money fro¬m his lovers. Many of his soon to be victims are so enamored with his fabulously rich lifestyle that they show understanding.
The scenario repeats itself for each of Leviev’s lovers: there is a knife attack from which his bodyguard saves him, followed by pictures sent by Leviev of him and his bodyguard sitting in an ambulance with obvious injuries.¬¬ Leviev then reaches out to his lover/victim asking for money. Because for security reasons, an attack on Leviev means that he is no longer able to use his credit cards or access his bank accounts.
So, Leviev asks his victims for money, a lot of money, he is rich after all and has a lifestyle to maintain. This requires his victims to take out loans and to open credit cards in their name, which they then send to Leviev. Nobody is the wiser because Leviev is rich and thus good for it.
However, when the loans are called in and the credit cards become due, his victims start asking for their money back, soon realizing that he is not actually good for it. Throughout the film, one can’t help but feel sorry for Leviev’s victims. Luckily, the momentum of the jet-set lifestyle, numerous heart-shaped emojis and Disneyesque soundtrack keeps the viewer in a good mood.
Could this have been prevented with online identity verification?
The short answer is, yes. The longer answer is that it depends on a number of other factors and caveats: the technology used as well as the jurisdictional regulations in place and the willingness of an online dating platform to implement an identity verification solution in the first place.
Regarding technology, online identity verification generally employs a solution based on computer vision and machine learning in such a way that a computer/machine can “see” and then compare a photo (ideally from a government-issued ID) to a live face from a selfie photo or video.
In verticals coming from regulated industries such as finance and telecommunications, the photo must come from a government-issued ID. This is the first line of defence for a successful online identity verification – working under the assumption that it is increasingly more difficult to forge a fake “official” ID.
Once the government-issued ID has been scanned and verified, the next step is to take either a selfie photo or video of your face. The software compares the face in the photo on the ID and compares it to the live selfie of the user and determines with an extremely high-degree of accuracy whether or not the faces match.
Not all industries are regulated the same…
While certain industries such as telecom and finance are heavily regulated. For instance, opening an online bank account or signing up for a phone service requires government-issued ID identity verification in most jurisdictions. Sometimes this still needs to be carried out in-person at a branch or through a video call.
In less-regulated industries, such as online dating, there is generally no official requirement for identity verification. There are a growing number of exceptions, such as in Japan for example, which requires individuals signing up for an online dating platform to verify their age.
In other cases, online dating companies are implementing an ID verification requirement from the beginning for all of its users. Flutter, a UK-based dating platform, will, for instance, ask all users to complete biometric ID verification before they can use their service.
Many of the top online dating apps (Tinder included) have already implemented some form of voluntary age/identity verification method. Some users want to have the peace of mind of only interacting with individuals that have had their identity officially verified.
Once verified, you are rewarded with a verification checkmark or some other symbol next to your profile name, such that other users will know that you are verified. WikiHow, has a guide on how to get verified by the top dating apps, if you are interested in learning more about how the different online dating apps have implemented this voluntary feature.
In the case of Tinder, voluntary ID verification will soon be rolled out globally. While Tinder has made continued investments in safety features, free ID verification can only go so far — especially when voluntary, putting the onus on individual users to decide whether or not they feel comfortable meeting with unverified users.
While its not clear which or whether Tinder uses a technology provider for their identity verification, a quick look through Tinder's “photo verification” section explains their process:
- Open Tinder and tap the profile icon
- Tap the gray checkmark by your name/age
- Select ‘Verify your profile’ to begin
- You’ll be shown a pose and we’ll ask you to copy that pose by taking a selfie
- Confirm that your selfie matches the pose and hit ‘Submit for review’
- Repeat steps 4 & 5 one more time
The section continues with the explanation that Tinder uses both human review and facial recognition technology to compare the selfies with the user-uploaded profile photos. Missing from this process is the requirement to use a government-issued ID.
As noted above, a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license, passport, or health card is asked for in Japan, where online dating platforms are required to verify that their patrons are at least 18 years of age or older.
PXL Vision’s identity verification solution for online dating platforms
PXL Vision’s identity verification product offers a bespoke identity verification solution that can be integrated into whichever use case at hand. Our competent product team and identity verification experts are available to meet at your convenience to discuss YOUR problem and present OUR solution. Book a meeting today with one of our experts via our contact page.