Open up your Instagram account, and you will see accounts filled with people traveling to exotic locations, wearing designer clothes and eating at expensive restaurants every second day. And then there are those who pose with all the celebrities in town and are seen in their company quite often. Yet, there remains a certain mystery around them. How are these people able to afford foreign trips and designer wear if all they do is be online 24/7 and pose for their cameras?
The most talked-about duo on the planet right now, Anna Delvey and Simon Leviev, appeared to have capitalized on the internet frenzy of people obsessed with Instagram influencers and their lifestyles. Both Anna and Simon swindled people out of their money owing to the fact that they were able to spin a yarn about their rich families and their affluent upbringing. I mean, if you have a private jet and a credit card with no spending limits, who would ever suspect you of being a con?
The influencer culture that has taken the internet and everyone by storm is exactly what Anna and Simon stand for. You are presented with a rosy picture full of faces plastered with smiles, posing with VIPs and jet-setting to a new country every other week. A lot of people, however, have now started questioning the standards set by these influencers. Most of these influencers, who are clearly paid by brands and PR agencies to hype their brands, do not talk about whether the brand or service has any flipside to it. A lot of women have complained about how skincare YouTubers and influencers have promoted substandard brands that are not worth the hype or the money or have simply not worked for them. But this is not just the case with a brand or service. Most influencers would have you believe that it is worth quitting your job and traveling without telling you how their travel is heavily funded by someone else. In both the cases of Anna and Simon, they wanted a luxurious life without having to pay for it. While Simon swindled money out of women by promising them marriage, Anna had plans to form a Soho House, a kind of a club for patrons of art, but people now say she just wanted to take money from the banks to support her extravagant lifestyle.
It is quite ironic how we saw the crossover of Billy McFarland and Anna Delvey at the same dinner table. For those who don’t know, Billy McFarland ran a scam by the name of Fyre Festival, a supposed music festival that never happened. The event was supported and promoted by several social media influencers, such as Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Kendall Jenner, and Emily Ratajkowski, to name a few. Ultimately, the festival never happened, and the organizers were arrested on charges of fraud. We don’t know if the influencers were also in on the con or if they genuinely didn’t have any idea about the way the organizers were running things.
In the era of true crime documentaries, we see how easy it has become for con men and women to rob people out of their savings through the use of technology. Simon and Anna both knew people’s obsession with the rich and famous, and hence they both cooked up stories of royal parentage and were able to fool people. Both had a penchant for an expensive lifestyle, and, clearly, both of them had no skills or intelligence to earn a living and hence ensured that somehow they got their lunches for free. It has been the case with a lot of influencers, who have on occasion threatened small businesses by offering them free services in exchange for social media postings. Anna and Simon both represent a rot in our culture that values only the rich and popular. Everyone now judges someone’s worth on the basis of their social media follower count. What worked for both Anna and Simon was having willing sycophants who would believe every word they said and be convinced that they, in their individual ways, were trying to build something big.
Anna Delvey and Simon Leviev should be case studies in colleges and universities as to how two influencers could fool even official authorities, violate visa rules and convince people to loan them money.
It was surprising that these two could fool people living in first-world countries, where they have more privileges and access to security measures than the rest of us. As of today, Anna served her time for fraud, but was arrested again on charges of overstaying her visa in the United States. She has managed to become a social media sensation despite her fraudulent ways. Simon Leviev, aka Simon Hayut, was arrested on charges of traveling and using a fake passport, but was released from jail during the pandemic. He still has a social media account. He has been banned from dating apps, but he continues to live that same jet-setting life. If rumors are to be believed, he has signed a manager and is in talks for a reality show.