Looking for further watching/reading/listening about large-scale scams.
August 12, 2019 10:32 AM   Subscribe

What are some books/podcasts/articles about scams/frauds that I should check out?

I recently finished the book "Bad Blood" by John Carreyrou about the Theranos scandal and proceeded to check out ABC's podcast "The Dropout" and HBO's documentary "Out for Blood" about the same. I was fascinated by the whole thing, especially how some very wealthy people seemingly did no due diligence before handing over millions of dollars, and how people fell for the whole cult of personality around Elizabeth Holmes. Similarly, I was fascinated by the whole Fyre Festival thing (I have seen both the Hulu and Netflix documentaries) and the story of Anna Delvey.

What would you recommend to someone looking for more non-fiction documentaries, books, and podcasts about similar frauds?
posted by futureisunwritten to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Who the Hell is Hamish? is a podcast about a scam artist that took a bunch of money from all sorts of people. He didn't do stuff to the scale of Elizabeth Holmes but it's still a pretty good listen.
posted by dawkins_7 at 10:41 AM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Maria Konnikova's book The Confidence Game is quite interesting and covers a number of scams. I think she did a podcast centered around it as well.
posted by karbonokapi at 10:44 AM on August 12, 2019

Dirty John is a podcast (and there's a lot of other media about the guy) about a guy who scammed women. Not quite a corporate scam story, but fascinating.

A Conspiracy of Fools is a book about the Enron scam/scandal.
posted by xingcat at 10:47 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Dream podcast - about multi-level marketing companies.
posted by GoldenEel at 10:54 AM on August 12, 2019 [13 favorites]

The Big Short (book and movie) is based on a true story about the 2008 financial collapse.
posted by soelo at 10:55 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Came here to recommend The Dream as well - I found it VERY informing and engrossing to learn about the long-term ongoing scam of how MLMs became legal, the rest is good too.
posted by Knicke at 10:56 AM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Liar City
posted by lovableiago at 11:00 AM on August 12, 2019

nth-ing 'The Dream'--it's put together really well.

'Swindled' isn't exactly what you're looking for, but it's pretty close.

The AARP produces a podcast (because 2019), 'The Perfect Scam,' with Frank Abagnale of 'Catch Me If You Can' fame. I haven't listened to it, but it seems like something you might like.
posted by box at 11:01 AM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "The Smartest Guys in the Room" was a great 2005 movie about the Enron scandal. Trailer (SLYT):
posted by nkknkk at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Betting On Zero about MLM/pyramid schemes, specifically Herbalife.
Vice YouTube story about Lularoe MLM.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:21 AM on August 12, 2019

This ask.me from earlier today Do you think my friend's behavior is ethical? may be of interest. Very small scale, but interesting.

Frank Abagnale's book Catch Me If You Can is fascinating,and the movie is pretty good.
posted by theora55 at 11:24 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's a new book out about Anna Sorokin/Anna Delvey who scammed many people, including the rich and famous, in New York a few years ago. It's called My Friend Anna.

Also the Dirty John podcast was based on the book Dirty John and Other True Stories of Outlaws and Outsiders, which is a collection of newspaper stories by LA Times reporter Christopher Goffard.
posted by lyssabee at 11:32 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding Swindled and The Perfect Scam podcasts. Really fascinating looks at a lot of different scams.
posted by entropyiswinning at 11:47 AM on August 12, 2019

Best answer: Michael Lewis, the author of the aforementioned "The Big Short," also wrote "Flash Boys" about the high-speed stock trading, and how it allows the literally well-connected to take advantage of anyone with a poorer connection than them.

He also has a podcast called Against the Rules which is less about cons and scams and more about the failures of institutional referees to prevent cons and scams.

This New Yorker article about thriller-writer Dan Mallory may be of interest.

Stephen Glass, a writer fro The New Republic, was discovered to be a fabulist. The whole story is covered in this Vanity Fair article. He later wrote an autobiographical novel called The Fabulist, which may or may not be of interest.

Stephen Glass reminds me of a funny story, long since pulled, he told on This American Life (his account of being a phone psychic for a hotline, which TAL could never confirm once they had a reason to look into it). That reminds me, in turn, of Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory, a full-hour episode featuring monologist Mike Daisey talking about the working conditions of the Foxconn iPhone factory. When it was discovered to have been substantially fabricated, TAL pulled the first ep and released a new ep, Retraction, which covered the detective work by Marketplace's China correspondent which uncovered the falsehoods.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:52 AM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Krebs on Security.
posted by Seeking Direction at 3:23 PM on August 12, 2019

Yet another vote for The Dream. So, so good.
American Greed: both the TV show and the podcast.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:49 PM on August 12, 2019

Best answer: Daniel Davies's great book Lying For Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal The Workings Of Our World -- currently out in the UK and soon (2020?) available in the US. I read the UK edition and thought it was fantastic -- informative and well-structured and funny.
posted by brainwane at 8:16 PM on August 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

Not sure if this is quite what you're looking for, but A Piece of Blue Sky, by former Scientologist Jon Atack, is about the development of Dianetics and Scientology, up through the 15x hike in course fees after Hubbard's death.
posted by kristi at 11:20 AM on August 16, 2019

Just remembered "The Informant: A True Story" by Kurt Eichenwald, the true story of the investigation which uncovered the massive price-fixing trust established by chemical manufacturer Archer Daniels Midland in the 1990s. It was the basis for the Matt Damon comedy movie about the same, because the story of the fraud is hardly as interesting as the story of Mark Whitacre, the ADM executive who acted as the FBI's inside man, wearing a wire and all that, and then reversing course later on when they tried to go to trial.

There's a This American Life episode based on the book called "The Fix Is In," if you'd like to hear the story in shorter audio form first.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:03 PM on November 13, 2019

Best answer: Lately was reminded of this thread when I discovered "WeCrashed," a podcast (8 episodes of roughly 25 minutes each, including a couple 1-minute ads) about the rise and fall of WeWork, the company that lost $40 Billion in virtual value after its catastrophic IPO. Like Theranos, it was a bit of a cult of personality, but there were also shady finances, employee and competitor intimidation tactics, predatory sales, and so on. Good stuff, and you can listen to the whole thing in less than 3 hours.

I heard about it through the otherwise dormant podcast feed of "The Dropout," so maybe you heard about it too.

One more thing: Burger King Corporation v Hungry Jack's Pty Ltd
Hungry Jack's is the Burger King-affiliated restaurant chain in Australia. They couldn't be called BK because there was an existing trademark in that country. In 1996, that trademark expired, and BK wanted to establish its brand. BK couldn't do that with HJ, their own licensee, in the way, so they established a mole in the C-suite at HJ and manipulated its contracts with HJ to engineer a breach, and breach the contract HJ did, so BK sued. The outcome of that lawsuit was pretty groundbreaking; I won't spoil it for you. It's an interesting story, and I hope someone cane someday tell it in great detail, but Wiki is very interesting.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:56 PM on March 12, 2020

McMillions, the 6-part HBO documentary series someone cheating regular people out of all of the big prizes in the McDonald's Monopoly Game.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:40 PM on June 12, 2020

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