How con artists and swindlers became Netflix’s latest true crime obsession
THE true crime genre is booming, although a clutch of newly released documentaries and TV drama series suggest that our viewing tastes may be moving away from traditional blood-soaked themes to a new-found fascination with fraudsters and shady scams.
What's the premise of these shows?
First up is The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman, which arrived on Netflix last month. The docuseries shines a spotlight on the case of Robert Hendy-Freegard, who masqueraded as an undercover MI5 agent.
It details the chilling coercive control – applying psychological stress to his victims by claiming they had been threatened by IRA assassination – used to scam large sums of money.
That sounds grim. Any glamour?
Ah, yes. The Tinder Swindler. The chart-topping Netflix documentary centres on Israeli-born Simon Leviev, who pretended to be the son of a billionaire diamond dealer and defrauded unsuspecting women on dating apps of an estimated $10 million (£7.4m).
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Leviev – real name Shimon Hayut – managed to convince his victims he was in danger from his enemies and needed to go off-grid for safety, asking them to share their credit card details or wire him cash, which he then used to fund his lavish lifestyle.
You mentioned a drama series?
Affirmative. Inventing Anna is the brainchild of Shonda Rhimes, the TV powerhouse behind Grey's Anatomy, Bridgerton and How To Get Away With Murder.
The nine-part drama, streaming on Netflix, is based on the life of Anna Delvey, a young woman who rubbed shoulders with New York's elite and managed to defraud banks, a private jet company, hotels and acquaintances.
Delvey – real name Anna Sorokin – was born in Moscow, before arriving in New York, via London and Paris. She created an alter ego as a wealthy German heiress and used this to charm others into unwittingly funding her ambitious plans.
Ozark's Julia Garner plays Delvey, with Anna Chlumsky from Veep as a journalist investigating the story.
Three is a trend. What's the attraction?
Riveting real-life stories packed with tension and twists. But there could be deeper and darker elements at play.
According to new figures from the FBI, Americans lost more than $1 billion in 2021 alone to "romance scams", such as the one documented in The Tinder Swindler.
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The majority of the victims cheated out of money were women older than 40 and typically widowed, divorced, elderly or disabled, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Centre reports.
In short? Perhaps we simply want to learn how to keep our wits about us and not get scammed.