Stories of male scammers abound. The handsome man, slipping into his victim’s life, enchanted her, infiltrating their lives so completely that when the scam is set, it is not only too late to extricate themselves, but often too embarrassing to report to the authorities. A study I came across in my research showed that only 37% of victims over the age of 55 will admit to having been scammed. Just over 50% of people under 55 will report it. Most scammers never get prosecuted because the people who scam never report the fraud to the police. I used this fact in my next novel, The lies I tellto explain how easy it was for my main character, Meg, to slip from place to place with little or no consequence.
I don’t remember when I first became obsessed with scam artists, but I do remember the moment I realized I wanted to write a book about a – a female scammer that the reader would root for. I was waiting for my youngest son’s piano lesson to finish, listening to a podcast called “Who the Hell is Hamish”. It was about an Australian man who cheated people for large sums of money under the guise of “can’t be lost” investments. I sat in the atrium of the apartment complex, lost in Hamish’s story when it occurred to me: Surely women must be pretty good at that too. Women are less threatening, ALSO we have the extra advantage (?) Of people who always underestimate us. Particularly powerful men.
At that point, the beginning of Meg’s character was born. A woman who played a role, she searched for deserving men and then scammed them with their money, their reputation of her and left them so tied to her lies that they were unable to report her. Because Meg has always been careful never to steal them. Everything she ended up with was gladly given to her.
To look for a scammer’s mind, I turned to the book first The game of trust by Maria Konnikova. Aside from that, I’ve avoided everything related to scammers for fear of appropriating ideas unconsciously. But when the book was finished I inhaled the shows, books, and podcasts listed below, amazed to see that women, in fact, are just as good – if not better – at scamming people as men.
Unveil Season 4 “Snowball“ The story of Greg Ward, a New Zealand man who falls in love with a beautiful California woman who ends up stealing more than a million dollars from her parents and their home. Greg’s brother, Ollie, tracks down this woman to find out how she did it and why. The comparison in the parking lot is superb.
Queen of the Con Seasons 1 and 2: This podcast focuses solely on scammers. The first season focuses on Mair Smyth, the “Irish heiress”. Johnathan Walten was Mair’s best friend until she learned that she was an international scammer. Season 2 centers on Lizzie Mulder, an Orange County CPA who used her position to rob clients of her. Both women are outrageous and bold, they use charm and resourcefulness to get what they want from their brands.
Nice things by Janelle Brown – Nice things is the compelling story of a woman who returns to scam a childhood friend who wronged her a long time ago.
Lucky by Marissa Stapley – This is the story of a woman who grew up with her crook father, learning the trade alongside him. But when she wins the lottery, she realizes that the only way she can claim the prize is by introducing herself to law enforcement.
Confident women by Tori Telfer – This is a non-fiction book that focuses solely on scammers. The author asks the question “Wouldn’t we all wish we could be breathtakingly selfish at times?” For some reason, it’s a surprise when we read about scammers in real life, as if women are programmed to be honest and straightforward. Anyone who has attended high school knows how wrong this statement is. Telfer’s book focuses on women who aren’t afraid to lie and steal to get what they want.
T.the game of trust by Maria Konnikova – This book was never far from my side while I was writing The lies I tell as he goes into detail on the psychology of scammers, both men and women. It is filled with fascinating stories about the most famous scammers over time and how they continue to find willing victims.
Inventing Anna – Netflix’s smash hit of winter and spring 2021-22 features diabolical Anna Delvey (Sorokin) pretending to be a German heiress. She convinces her friends to lend her money, pay her bills, and almost tricks New York’s biggest bankers into lending her millions of dollars. I was fascinated by how easily people wanted to believe that her lavish lifestyle was real.
The abandonment – Hulu’s limited series about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos was a fun and quick to binge series. I don’t know if I would consider Elizabeth a real scammer on the same path as Anna Sorokin, however there have been many cases where Elizabeth lied and tricked her investors to continue enjoying the millions of dollars poured into her startup.
impostors – I loved this Netflix show that starts with a man realizing that the woman he married was missing with everything he owned and that she wasn’t who he thought she was. In fact, he was part of a team of three who handled cheating facilitated by a “home office” of some kind. Her husband decides to team up with another man he cheated to track her down and get their money back. Very funny!
I care about it a lot – The story of a woman who uses her job as an office guardian to rob patients under her care. She has trouble when one of her victims appears to be the mother of a well-connected mobster.
The list above should keep you immersed in the world of scammers, at least for a while. I write to Meg, my scammer The lies I tell She was incredibly funny, and while what she does isn’t exactly moral, my hope is you’ll still cheer for her. If you don’t learn more from reading The lies I tell, or consuming one of the media I suggested above, is that you should block your social media as soon as possible. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!