summer of scam

A Tinder Scam For The Ages

Scenes from the great Union Square date scam of 2018. Photo: Nick AM via WAV

The summer of scam has a new hero, and her name is Natasha Aponte. What did Ms. Aponte do to warrant this title? She used Tinder to con dozens of men into believing they were meeting her for a one-on-one date in Union Square. When the men arrived, they discovered that instead of a date … they’d be competing against each other to win it.

The scam came to light after a man, who asked only to be identified as Misha, tweeted a now-viral thread about falling for the date scam. Misha said he matched with Aponte on Tinder “a few weeks ago,” and after chatting a little on the app, they moved over to text messaging. (Okay, sounds normal.) After texting some more, Aponte told him she was busy with a work “presentation,” but would text him again in a few weeks when she had more free time.

Misha assumed she was ghosting on him, but to his surprise, Aponte texted him again a week later, inviting him to meet in Union Square where she said her friend was DJing. He agreed — as did, unbeknownst to Misha, a few dozen other men.

A number of men Select All spoke with confirmed a similar pattern of events, from meeting her on Tinder to the texting hiatus to the out-of-the-blue date invitation to Union Square. “A month ago she contacted me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to get drinks?’ I agreed … because this is an attractive-looking woman. Then she said, ‘Oh, I’m getting held up because of my presentation.’ I thought that was weird because she said on Instagram she was an actress and model. I didn’t see anything about her working in an office,” said Spencer, another scam victim.

Aponte texted to let him know they were on rain or shine. Connor Murray, another guy whom she told the same thing, thought this was fishy: “She texted me yesterday morning saying that it would be rain or shine … who says that for a date?”

When Misha arrived in Union Square, he found a small crowd gathered around the stage. Aponte had told him to meet her at the front. “I guess [the crowd] was mostly male, but that didn’t immediately register to me,” Misha told Select All. “As I was watching the DJ play booming techno on a Sunday I did think it was odd that that many people were staying around and paying attention so attentively instead of just stopping and walking on.”

David, another man who showed up for a date, said he realized something was up when “the guy next to me went ‘Are you trying to meet up with a girl named Natasha?’” Eventually, “everyone started realizing what was going on.” “I got there and a DJ was playing and I found out that hundreds of other guys were also waiting for Natasha,” Spencer said. “I walked away when I found out it was a scam.” He heard people booing as he left Union Square.

Aponte eventually took the stage with a microphone to reveal her con. “She walked on, stated and explained the situation, and validated her actions by saying, ‘Won’t this be a great first-date story!’” Misha described it on Twitter as “a hunger games speech about what it’s gonna take to date her.”

“Her first questions to people were ‘Are you over five-foot-ten?’ and ‘Please don’t be named Jimmy,’” David said.

A video from the DJ, Nick AM, shows Aponte’s welcome speech in full. “I am single … dating apps are very difficult, and I said, Okay, how do I solve this problem … maybe I can bring everyone in person and see how that goes and solve this once and for all. So do you have what it takes to compete against everyone here to win a date with me … look around the crowd, can you last longer than all these other guys?”

“Half of you people here are in relationships, so those people should leave now,” Aponte continued. “Statistically, people who are on dating apps … half of them are in relationships. Those people should leave.” Men in the crowd started chanting “Shut the fuck up.” Aponte also said anyone not comfortable being filmed should leave. (There were people with cameras filming the stunt, though it remains unclear for what purpose. Several men left at this point.)

“We’re going to start the elimination now. If you think you can support Trump and date a Puerto Rican now’s the time to leave.” She also asked tourists and people who didn’t live in the United States to leave. (This is when the men named “Jimmy” were also asked to depart: “I don’t enjoy the name Jimmy.”) She asked the men to raise their left hands if their last relationship ended because their girlfriends had ended it. Right hands were to be raised if they had ended it. Anybody with a left hand up was asked to leave. “Please leave because I completely trust her judgement,” Aponte said. She also asked anybody looking for just a hookup to leave, along with anybody with a beer belly, a long beard, khakis, Toms shoes, or who is a smoker or an alcoholic. “I just want honesty,” a man shouted at her from the crowd as she listed her requests.

After thinning the crowd significantly, Aponte asked the men to come closer to the stage. “Other people told me she made the guys sprint, do push-ups, and she walked up to the guys and ‘swiped left or right’ on them,’” Spencer said. “This is what I’ve heard … and if it’s public humiliation in front of hundreds of people. She also gave guys a minute to explain why they should date her.”

Aponte has since locked down her social-media presence. Her Instagram, which proclaims her a “New York City baby” and “world traveller,” and that “the world is too small to contain me,” is now private. (Spencer says she lost several hundred followers on Sunday night. The current count is 2,795.) Select All’s attempts to reach Aponte for comment were unsuccessful, though I have now listened to her cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” several times and am intimately acquainted with her lone SoundCloud track.

As for her so-called victims, most of them have a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing. “I think it’s hilarious so I’m happy I was a part of it,” David told me. “If anything, she just seemed more forward than most women you’d find on a dating site.” Others, however, are still smarting. “I’m not a therapist … but I think that this woman is completely narcissistic, borderline delusional, completely vain, and just a shallow human being that only cares about getting more attention for herself,” Spencer said. “She’s like the female, slightly more attractive version of Donald Trump, and you can quote me on that.”

A Tinder Scam For the Ages