Tag: fraud

You Just Gotta Tell It Right

I’ve been binge-listening to fraud-focused true crime podcasts like Swindled, Drilled, and The Dropout. Bad Blood is the current book on my nightstand. True Crime books about notorious cons and scams abound. The Strategist, from New York magazine, offers a list of some of the best (Reading Lists, “The Best Books on Con Artists, According to True-Crime Experts,” July 5, 2018, Karen Iorio Adelson). Some of the real-life fraudsters are so outrageous, if you pitched them as characters in a novel, your idea would be rejected as too fantastic. But con artists do often appear in crime fiction, in movies (Catch Me if You Can, American Hustle, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, House of Games, The Hustler, The Color of Money, Trading Places, White Men Can’t Jump, The Ladykillers, Focus, Ocean’s Eleven) and novels (The Grifters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, Nightmare Alley). If I wrote a novel starring a con artist, I’d choose a chameleon-like character who put on and shed new identities like a snake skin. My con artist (protagonist? antagonist?) would use those identities to insert herself into others’ lives, motivated more by a desire to reinvent herself , to erase herself and become someone new, […]

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What’s the Story?: True Crime Fraud

Long a popular subject in fiction—The Sting, Paper Moon, The Grifters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Six Degrees of Separation—fraud and con games have become a true crime staple. From early entries like the 2005 film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and the 2008 book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar, we now have television series (the Stacy Keach-narrated “American Greed” on CNBC), more films (Sour Grapes in 2016, competing Fyre Festival documentaries in 2019), books (King Con, Bad Blood), and podcasts (Drilled, Swindled, American Greed, The Dropout, Dirty John, The Dream). Podcasts, in particular, have embraced the art of the con as a rich source of material. Some, like the American Greed podcast, a spin-off of the CNBC show, offer a brief report of a specific case, similar to a news brief that might pop up in your Facebook or Google newsfeed. Others, like Swindled, offer a deeper dive into each crime, giving listeners more background on the perpetrators and victims along with some analysis of the case. Still others, like Drilled, The Dream, and The Dropout, devote an entire series to a single con, like climate change denial (Drilled), multi-level marketing schemes (The Dream), and the Theranos scandal (The Dropout). […]

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Fool Me Once…

Not all crimes involve a dead body. Robbery, assault, and fraud are as criminal as murder and can be as destructive to victims and families. Fraud, especially, fascinates me. How can someone trick other competent adults (I omit children and incompetent adults because people who prey on them are a special class of evil) into giving them money, property, love, and trust? I’m on the cynical end of the spectrum, so that last one, trust, in particular confuses me. Some frauds are easy to understand. The con artist plays on people’s greed, sympathy, or fear/confusion. Take greed. Face it, if you fall for a con who tells you, up front, he/she needs you to help them launder money—and that’s what helping some deposed royal or disgraced official or surviving spouse smuggle their “inheritance” or other shady fortune out of their country is—then you’re greedy enough to agree to an illegal act for the promise of a cut and shame on you. Shame on the con artist who takes advantage of a tender-hearted person’s desire to help or to rescue someone. Crooks who run charity scams and ransom scams are bottom-feeders and deserve a special place in hell. Cons who ape […]

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