Podcasts and TV shows based on elaborate scams seem to have us all in a chokehold right now but have no fear, our roundup of the best (and most intriguing) is here.
Maybe it’s utter fascination, shock, disgust or a mixture of all three that has left us slightly obsessed with consuming scam-related content recently.
With recent releases of Netflix’s The Tinder Swindler and Inventing Anna, BBC Three’s Jobfished and our recent podcast obsession Scamfluencers, it seems like the art of the scam is the flavour of 2022 so far.
While devastating, there’s no denying that the tales (based on real life events) are worthy of a binge-watch or listen and we’ll put our hands up to having consumed most of them. It’s a subgenre of true crime that’s always been there but the double lives, the multiple faked personas and the lies are perfect fodder for any docuseries fans out there.
If we’ve learnt anything from the plethora of scam-related content on offer at the moment, it’s that online personas are never exactly as they seem. This new Wondery podcast, co-hosted by Scaachi Koul and Sarah Hagi, investigates just that and explores some of the most jaw-dropping tales of influencers who used scams to their (manipulative) advantages.
As the synopsis reads: “In today’s world, the power of influence can be the quickest path to money and fame, and it often ends in ruin. These are the stories of the world’s most insidious Scamfluencers. And we are their prey.
“These influencers claim to be everything from charismatic healers to trusted financial insiders to experts in dating. They cast spells over millions. Why do we believe them, and how does our culture allow them to thrive? From Black Swan Murder to a fake social media influencer and an audacious Hollywood Ponzi schemer, each season will take the listener along the twists and turns, the impact on victims, and what’s left when the façade falls away.”
The brand new podcast only has a couple of episodes available to stream but if the first episode about the ballet world’s equivalent to Fyre Festival is anything to go by, we’ll be tuning in weekly.
The Tinder Swindler
The recent Netflix documentary has taken the world by storm, not least because convicted conman Simon Leviev (who is also known as Simon Hayut) has proceeded to slate the docufilm and the women within it.
The shocking film explores how the Israeli businessman duped people into believing he was the son of a wealthy billionaire diamond mogul when instead he was swindling women out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
You’ll need to watch it to believe it, but by the end of it, you’ll be thinking of the term “My enemies are coming” very, very differently.
The Tinder Swindler is available to watch on Netflix now.
The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman
Because of all the great Netflix content that came out at the start of the year, this shocking true crime docuseries perhaps flew under the radar.
The series is based on the very real-life case of Robert Hendy-Freegard, a 51-year-old British man who masqueraded as an MI5 agent in order to control his victims.
The Puppet Master centres on siblings Sophie and Jake Clifton as they struggle to come to terms with what they think is currently happening to their mother, Sandra. The siblings believe that Hendy-Freegard is currently coercively controlling their mother, who he met on a dating site and moved in with in 2012.
The Netflix show takes you through all the wild twists and turns of this true crime case. While his whereabouts (and Sandra Clifton’s) are currently unknown, one thing’s for certain – this series will be one you’ll be left thinking about long after you finish watching.
The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman is available to stream on Netflix now.
If you’re a true crime fan then you’ll likely know who Anna Delvey (or Anna Sorokinis) is, and if you’re not, allow us to guide you to the podcast recommendation below also.
But the truly wild Delvey case is the basis of Shonda Rhimes’ latest Netflix series, Inventing Anna. Telling the story of one of the world’s most notorious fraudsters, the 10-episode series follows Vivian, a journalist who has a lot to prove as she begins to investigate the case of the mysterious heiress.
Ozark’s Julia Garner leads the cast as Delvey, who successfully posed as a globe-trotting German heiress between 2013 and 2017. According to our reviewer, it “gives a compelling explanation of what really went on in the mind of the ‘fake heiress’.”
Inventing Anna is available to stream on Netflix now.
Can’t get enough of the Anna Delvey case and want to learn more? The BBC Radio 4 Fake Heiress podcast chronicles the rise and fall of Anna Delvey, who conned New York high society into believing that she was a multi-millionaire heiress.
Journalist Vicky Baker and screenwriter Chloe Moss dig deeper into the scandal around it and explore the story through a mix of drama and documentary. It also features direct interviews with the people who knew her, woven in with dramatised scenes based on court reports and press coverage. It’s all suitably wild and we can’t recommend plugging into it enough – especially if spicing up your commute with some true crime is what you’re after.
Listen to all six episodes of Fake Heiress on BBC Sounds now.
Right, this pick is basically a double whammy so you can thank us later. Dr. Death is a Wondery podcast that you can listen to here but we need to take a moment for the recent chilling television adaptation.
Inspired by the terrifying true story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch (played by Joshua Jackson), who was a rising star in the Dallas medical community. He was also everything you’d want a doctor to be – charismatic, brilliant and positively thriving.
Duntsch was building a flourishing neurosurgery practice when suddenly, everything changed. Patients would enter his operating theatre for complex – but routine – spinal surgeries and would leave “permanently maimed or dead,” according to the synopsis.
“As victims piled up, two fellow physicians, neurosurgeon Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin) and vascular surgeon Randall Kirby (Christian Slater), as well as Dallas prosecutor Michelle Shughart (Anna Sophia Robb), set out to stop him. Dr. Death explores the twisted mind of Dr. Duntsch and the failures of the system designed to protect the most defenseless among us.”
It’s chilling, will likely leave you even more terrified of the doctor’s waiting room but makes for truly excellent TV.
Dr. Death is available to stream on StarzPlay via Amazon Prime Video.
If you’re yet to listen to our standout podcast from 2021, allow us to introduce you to Sweet Bobby. You may listen to the podcast and think you’ve tuned in to a highly sophisticated episode of MTV’s Catfish but this true crime podcast is so much more sinister.
It tells the unbelievable true story of Kirat Assi, the British woman at the centre of a web of lies that controlled and destroyed 10 years of her life.
The Tortoise Media podcast is hosted by investigative journalist Alexi Mostrous and explores Kirat’s seemingly perfect relationship with cardiologist Bobby – but it’s quickly revealed that she has slowly been manipulated and duped by someone else entirely.
As you listen, we assure you that you’ll experience several jaw-dropping moments but ultimately, we learn how one person used more than 50 online personas to slowly tear apart Kirat’s from a scarily close distance.
Sweet Bobby, from Tortoise Media, is available to listen on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
If you binged Sweet Bobby and like the slow-burning pace of the investigative podcast, allow us to recommend Unravel: Snowball. It tells the story of how an average family’s encounter with a charismatic Californian con woman – Lezlie Manukian – cost them everything.
Like Sweet Bobby, our reviewer says that Unravel: Snowball follows “an elaborate trail of smoke and mirrors” but “unlike the mystery protagonist at the heart of Sweet Bobby, Lezlie appears in real life on multiple occasions: but with a whole lot of intrigue floating beneath the surface.”
Hosted by New Zealand radio producer Ollie Ward, whose brother, Greg, was once married to Lezlie, the podcast is as personal to him as it is deeply intriguing to listen to.
Listen to all eight episodes of Unravel: Snowball on BBC Sounds.
The Irish Heiress: Queen Of The Con
What would you do if you found out your best friend was actually lying about their entire life and wasn’t who they said they were? That’s the question at the heart of this wild podcast all about friendship and international cons.
According to the synopsis: “Mair Smyth came into the life of reality TV producer Johnathan Walton as an angel, promising salvation and friendship in a time of need. And not just an everyday angel, a glamorous one – with a storied family in Ireland who is fighting her over a whopping $25 million inheritance.
“But one day, after trying to help Mair out of a legal ‘snafu’, Johnathan accidentally learns the truth about the woman who has become his best friend: she’s actually an international con artist who has scammed him and a slew of other victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, from Los Angeles to Belfast.
“As Johnathan uncovers con after con – involving BDSM sex rings, witchcraft, a phony cancer diagnosis and the scamming of a Los Angeles politician – he and other victims band together to bring Mair Smyth to justice. But can they stop her? Or will she go free in a world where her next mark is just a friendly smile away.”
Listen to all episodes of Queen Of The Con: The Irish Heiress on Spotify and Apple Podcasts now.
BBC documentaries hold a soft space in our heart and for good reason – they’re gritty, interesting and can keep us guessing till the very end. Their most recent docufilm Jobfished did that (and more) after we watched it and we’re certain it’ll leave the same impression on you too.
It tells the fascinating true story of how 52 people were duped into working for Madbird, an entirely made up design agency, without any pay. The man at the centre of it all – Ali Ayad – wove a web of lies that spanned from his imagined GQ features to plagiarising work from a small London-based company.
Much like an explosion, a big whistleblowing email was sent round to everyone exposing the truth behind Madbird. All of Madbird’s work was taken from other people (even someone who had died). The headquarters in Kensington didn’t exist and many of the employees were just an amalgamation of stock photos and random bios.
You’ll have to watch it to believe it, but rest assured, it’s a very real story.
Jobfished is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.
So, we know we only have a week to go till the Disney+ Amanda Seyfried-fronted TV series but that just means now’s as great a time as any to brush up on our Theranos knowledge.
The Dropout podcast is all about the story of Elizabeth Holmes (and Theranos) and how the unbelievable tale of ambition, fame and money went terribly wrong.
As the synopsis states: “How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye? How did the woman once heralded as ‘the next Steve Jobs’ find herself facing criminal charges – to which she pleaded not guilty – and up to decades in prison?
“How did her technology, meant to revolutionize health care, potentially put millions of patients at risk? And how did so many smart people get it so wrong along the way?”
As well as exclusive interviews with former employees, investors and patients, you’ll also hear the never-before-aired deposition testimony of Elizabeth Holmes. If you manage to get through the podcast quickly then The Dropout: Elizabeth Holmes on Trial (an off-shoot of the original podcast) is your next natural port of call. It catches us up and takes us inside the courtroom, breaking down the evidence and three years after she was initially charged, we find out how this saga finally ends.
Listen to all episodes of The Dropout on Spotify and Apple Podcasts now.
Watching this investigative docuseries may cause you to rethink everything you knew about leggings but it definitely will leave you scratching your head after binge-watching all four episodes.
The Amazon Prime Video documentary takes a look at popular American clothing brand LuLaRoe and the company’s multi-level marketing scam that left many millennial women in crippling debt. It’s hard to believe that such levels of deceit, cult-like behaviour and “mass delusion” could be down to the sale of patterned leggings but it’s all true.
LuLaRich is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video now.
The hit series stars Eric Bana (as John Meehan) and explores love that becomes very twisted and quickly devolves into manipulation, meaning anything can happen – including murder. We won’t spoil it for you if you’re yet to watch but let’s just say, you’ll want to brace yourself for one epic finale.
If you also still haven’t gotten around to it, dive into the true crime podcast that it’s based on. In six episodes (plus three bonus episodes and a live recording), we hear the horrific and fascinating story of violent conman Meehan, who tricked and seduced his way into the lives of successful and wealthy women.
Dirty John is available to watch on Netflix now and you can listen to the Wondery podcast here.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
Can we include a roundup of wild deception and lies without including Fyre? We think not.
The documentary may have landed on Netflix three years ago but has firmly remained in the cultural zeitgeist by way of memes and memorable quotes. The film offers us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the infamous unravelling of the Fyre music festival.
Created by Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, it was promoted to be the next huge music extravaganza. It was set to be luxurious, ostentatious, on a private island in the Bahamas and would, of course, feature bikini-clad supermodels, A-List musical performances and posh amenities. But guests arrived to discover the reality was far from the promises and this documentary will take you deep into the scandal of it all.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is available to stream on Netflix now.
British Scandal: The Canoe Con
Wondery really does continue to provide us with the podcast gems and this scandalous instalment of their popular show is no different.
Prison officer John Darwin finds himself in debt and makes the very drastic decision to fake his own death. What ensues is a 45 minute-long podcast episode that is based on the shocking true story filled with lies, life insurance payouts and a whole lot of fraud.
Listen to The Canoe Con on Spotify and Apple Podcasts now.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was a primetime Saturday night staple for many and while the popular gameshow may continue today, it was the basis of a pretty major scandal back in 2001.
Quiz is the ITV series which lifts the lid on the drama around Charles Ingram, a former army major in the Royal Engineers, who unexpectedly won the £1,000,000 jackpot. What follows is a criminal trial in which he and his wife were convicted of cheating their way to success and who knew that a series of well-timed coughs was all it took to pull off one of TV’s most audacious heists?
Quiz is available to stream via BritBox.