“This is quite rare, to have men listen,” says Swedish woman Pernilla Sjoholm, recalling her first date with Hayut. Hayut played on the difficulty so many women have finding men who are attentive and caring. Quickly, he made his victims feel loved. The expensive trips and meals were one thing, but, watching The Tinder Swindler, you never fully get the sense these women were with him for his money.
They saw him as a real-life Prince Charming, and their feelings for him were gut-wrenchingly real. Real enough for them to help Hayut out of a fabricated and dramatic bind by maxing out credit cards for him, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As pointed out by one of the women he swindled, coming to someone’s rescue financially is hardly the behaviour of a gold digger.
It’s unfortunate, in a sense, that we find people like Hayut so fascinating. They thrive on their intrigue. And it’s tempting to apply every bit of pop psychology to them; they’re psychopaths, they’re sociopaths, they’re narcissists. In this frenzy of amateur diagnosis and analysis, we mustn’t forget just how vulnerable we all are to manipulation. And therein, perhaps, lies another reason for our fascination with con artists. To varying degrees, we all feel we’ve been taken advantage of at some point. The story of a fraud isn’t just one about the size of the lies people can get away with – it also calls into question just how huge and monstrous a lie we could believe ourselves, if we really wanted to.
The Puppet Master launches on Netflix on Tuesday January 18