When we hear about confidence games, we think, “never me.” Welcome to The Grift, a show about con artists and the lives they ruin. Best-selling author and New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova takes us to the darker side of human nature and deceit. Ten stories about card sharks, cult leaders, art forgers, impostors, and more. Why do we fall for them time and time again?
From the Producers of The Grift and Revisionist History, Empire on Blood is a new podcast from Panoply that chronicles award-winning journalist Steve Fishman's seven-year investigation to uncover the truth behind a Bronx double homicide and one man's journey to overturn his life sentence. Subscribe now on Apple Podcasts or wherever you like to listen.
The Grift presents an episode of another Panoply podcast we think our listeners will love: Family Ghosts.
When Nick's grandfather died in 1994, something bizarre happened: his aunt Susan stole the body and hid it. Susan died shortly thereafter, and for the last twenty-three years, Nick and his family have agonized over his grandfather's whereabouts - but much to Nick's frustration, never enough to actually try and find him.
This week, Nick asks "Family Ghosts" host Sam Dingman to see what he can do.
Find us on Twitter and Instagram: @famghoshow.
Join our mailing list, the Ghost Post: eepurl.com/c6qJIL.
Thanks for listening!
Ferdinand Demara is quite possibly the greatest con artist you’ve never heard of. With good reason: he hardly ever used his own name. Demara was a professional impostor. In his long and prolific career, he passed himself off as a surgeon on a warship, an engineer, a college dean, a cancer researcher, a cop. And the list goes on. Demara operated for over fifty years, and impersonated at least fifty people, that we know of… and he got away with all of it.
We hope you enjoyed the last episode of this season of The Grift! Let us know what you think of the show on social media and by leaving us a review in Apple Podcasts.
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Peter Fenton made a career out of crafting that con we’ve all fallen for: the con of fantasy, of alternative realities that are much more pleasant than the existing one. This week, we go inside the world of carnival game scams, why we fall for them even when we know the odds are against us. Later, Peter recounts his career as a tabloid fabulist. Peter Fenton is the essential grifter – he sells us the stories we most want to believe.
A fraud is lurking on most every block of most every city and town, all over the world: the psychic. When you’re down, when you’re alone, when you’re uncertain: that’s when you’re perfectly vulnerable to that old teller of the future, the person who offers you certainty and clarity and counsel and support when you most need it. The person who knows just how to take advantage of the basic human desire for control over our lives. They search for the perfect victim, work their way into her life, and gradually, take away everything. That’s what happened to Lyla.
Oscar Hartzell, born to humble beginnings, would go on to craft one of the most elaborate and successful mail fraud cons of all time. Pirates, lost treasure, the Wild West — it's the Spanish Prisoner, with a very English twist.
Sam Israel not only ran one of the most successful Ponzi schemes in history, he would eventually go on to the single most extreme con there is: the con of life and death. Who knows how often it happens? After all, its success stories are dead….or so we think.
Maria talks with the Atlantic’s Emily Yoffe about the most common grift of them all: the sweetheart scam. It’s a catfishing bait and switch where the person you fall in love with isn’t the person you thought. It has likely happened to someone you know. Someone intelligent, nice, attractive. Someone like you. Because where are we more vulnerable than in matters of the heart?
A small secretive cult was started in the 1970s and operated out of New Jersey for decades without notice. A survivor tells us her dark story of abuse and manipulation at the hands of the charismatic cult leader, and how she eventually escaped his clutches.
Cassie Chadwick was one of the most famous, or infamous, seductresses of the Gilded Age. She excelled at impersonating high society royalty—and at getting everyone in her path to shower her with cash, even though they never got anything in return. And she got away with it – until she took the con too far.
The only thing Ken Perenyi loved as much as art was swindling the art world. He relished the contest of wits, the risk of getting caught, the thrill of deception, the sense of power that comes with a successful con. But more than anything else, he wanted to see his work get the recognition he always felt it deserved. This week, we speak to the man behind some of the greatest art frauds of the twentieth century.
“Fast Jack” Farrell is one of the greatest card and dice manipulators of the twentieth century - an undisputed leader in the vast world of crooked gambling. He cheated John Wayne and Frank Sinatra, worked for mobs in several states and several continents. Fast Jack turned cheating into an art form.
If you’d like to hear more from Jack, you can check out his memoir Fast Jack, the Last Hustler.