Some recommendations of books and movies about scammers that offer a useful insight into the criminal mind: Internet Scambusters #383
We may read a scam book or watch a movie about scammers to be
entertained, but they also help us understand the way these
crooks think and operate.
In this week’s lighter issue, we focus on some of the most
notable scam books and movies across the years.
In particular, the world of investment scams has captured the
imagination of creative minds. But there’s more…
Before we get started, we suggest you visit last week’s most
popular articles from our other websites:
Protect Your Business from Identity Theft: Use these tips to protect your business from identity theft and and you’re sure to improve customer service.
Choosing the Right Water Filter for Your Home: Follow these tips to be sure you’re buying the right water filter for your family.
Rediscovering the Just Because Gift: Giving someone a just because gift for no special occasion is sure to brighten up their day.
Shoe Shopping: If the Shoe Fits… Shoe shopping tips that will serve you well when it’s time to buy those next pair of shoes.
Time to get going…
Scam Book and Movie Favorites Teach Us a Valuable Lesson
It’s time for a lighter touch this week, with a look at some
true or not-so-true stories featured in a bestselling scam
book or movie.
Although they may be mainly for entertainment, scam books and
scam movies actually have a lot to teach us about the criminal
mind, when crooks set out to con us out of our money, or even
just to give the perpetrator a good time.
They show how easy it is to be taken in by a silver-tongued
con artist and how clever tricksters can be in inventing
plausible stories. We can even learn some valuable lessons as
Investment Scam Books and Movies
You might think that with the flood of books about arch Ponzi
schemer Bernie Madoff (more than a dozen documentary DVDs,
scores of books and a movie, apparently called Madoff’s
Inferno, in the making) that this was a relatively new
big-time genre. But of course it isn’t.
In fact, an early silent stock market scam movie, called A
Safe Investment, appeared in 1915. Unfortunately, the
scammer’s main victim turns out to be his wife, who falls for
his fraudulent scheme. (Hope we didn’t spoil the plot – but
you’re unlikely to see it!)
Another early movie was The Toast of New York, based on the
real story of a 1930s scam artist Jim Fisk, a 19th century
financier known as “Diamond Jim,” famous for his shady
business dealings. There’s a good book about Fisk, too — The
Gold Ring by Kenneth D. Ackerman.
Boiler Room (1980) exposes the high-intensity crime of
cheap-stock, pump and dump investment scams to the big screen.
Definitely worth seeing.
Look out, too, for a potential blockbuster in a similar vein:
The Wolf Of Wall Street, based on the book of the same name by
self-confessed “boiler room” broker Jordan Belfort. Directed
by Martin Scorsese, the movie will star Leonardo DiCaprio.
But probably the biggest and most memorable box office scam
movie hit was Oliver Stone’s fictional Wall Street (1987),
starring Michael Douglas — so big in fact that the movie’s
anti-hero Gordon Gekko is about to make a comeback in Wall
Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Of course, there are thousands of scam books about investment,
most of them eye-opening biographical exposes — like Den of
Thieves by James B. Stewart (covering the Wall Street insider
trading scandal of the 1980s) — or tough-talking, no-nonsense
advice books, such as How to Smell A Rat: The Five Signs of
Financial Fraud by Ken Fisher and Lara W. Hoffmans.
But there’s also some great fiction out there, starting with
Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, by Herman
Melville, which the author wrote because he was worried about
the lack of interest in his previous book, Moby Dick.
One novelist who turned the investment scam book into a
best-selling genre almost of his own was Paul Erdman, who died
A former Swiss banker (though he was born in Canada and lived
most of his life in California), Erdman provided an insider’s
view of the dirty side of the investment world in such
masterpieces as The Silver Bears (a movie starring Michael
Caine), The Set-up and The Panic of ’89.
For more straight-talk about investment scams and safe
investing, check out the Scambusters Files.
Scam Books and Movies About Con Artists
In the wider world of the con artist, the Amazon bookstore
lists more than 100,000 books dealing with the subject, again
Best-sellers include How to Become a Professional Con Artist
by ex-cop Dennis Marlock.
Read recently and recommended by Scambuster Keith, this book
covers well-known scams like the pigeon drop, the Jamaican
switch (where the victim is asked to put up “good faith” money
before being handed a worthless bundle that appears to be
cash), bank-examiner schemes (passing money to a bogus corrupt
teller), three-card monte and fortune-telling.
Speaking of which, for a close-up look at scammers who use
seeing the future as a platform for crime, ex-reporter Peter
Huston delivers an interesting read with Scams From the Great
Beyond, and More Scams for the Great Beyond.
Another recommendation from Keith is The King of Sting: The
Amazing True Story of a Modern American Outlaw by Craig Glazer
and Sal Manna.
Glazer was a sort of vigilante scammer who, posing as a law
enforcement officer, targeted drugs dealers. The book, which
reads more like a fiction thriller, was only recently
published and the film of the book is due out next year.
Probably the best-known scam book and movie of contemporary
times was the story of conman Frank Abagnale, who authored The
Art of the Steal and Catch Me If You Can (subsequently a
blockbuster movie with Leo DiCaprio).
The film, which grossed $164 million, holds the top slot in
the scam movie charts. Number 2 is Mel Gibson’s Maverick, and
Number 3 is 21 — the movie based on a true story about a
group of college students who were trained to count casino
Staying in the movie world, Paul Newman and Robert Redford
produced an outstanding pair of scam movie hits with Butch
Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and then The Sting. (There was also
The Sting II with Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis.)
Also vying for our movie honors are the comedy Dirty Rotten
Scoundrels (with Steve Martin and Michael Caine as the conmen)
and Matchstick Men with Nicholas Cage as the neurotic con
artist who himself becomes a victim.
Look out too for the soon to be released The Con Artist, with,
among others, Donald Sutherland and his son Rossif,
respectively as a crime boss and his henchman, in a mixed up
world of auto theft and art.
These scam books and movies are just a small sampling of what
we think are among the best offerings in the world of
confidence tricksters — though you may have your own
favorites. And we may return to the subject for another look
in the future.
Meanwhile, and finally, if you’re looking for an interesting
all-round read and a wry smile, try this scam book: Schmucks!:
Our Favorite Fakes, Frauds, Lowlifes, Liars, the Armed and
Dangerous, and Good Guys Gone Bad, by Raoul Felder and Jackie
That’s a wrap for this issue. Wishing you a great week!