If you’re a film and TV buff, you’ll probably have noticed a recent surge in ‘scammer stories’ such as the new Netflix miniseries Inventing Anna, which chronicles the activities of convicted fraudster Anna Sorokin.
Simply by pretending to be rich heiress Anna Delvey, Sorokin came dangerously close to:
- Securing $40million (around £29m) from US major banks
- Launching an exclusive private members’ club to rival Soho House in London
TV audiences clearly enjoy the fictionalisation and at times glamorisation of the scams undertaken by master con artists. But why? What is it about these people that we find so fascinating? Do we fear or want to be like them?
Perhaps the attraction is an underlying desire to answer two key question that link nearly all of these narratives:
- Was the individual out to scam from the get-go, or did they truly believe their vision would come to be?
- Is is possible to differentiate honest directors and genuine companies from fraudsters and scams?
Social media scams
Last week, we explored how social media platforms enable people to project advantageous images of themselves and their business, regardless of the truth. Sorokin, for example, was able to befriend influential people and secure meetings with high-profile investors.
A well-curated Instagram profile depicting Russian-born Sorokin as a fine art-collecting German heiress proved to be one of her most valuable aids.
Perhaps the allure of social media is what entices these scammers and our fascination with them. Sorokin and former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes both took ideas that could have potentially worked. But they pushed on regardless, breaking the law even after realising it wasn’t going to happen.
In many ways, these cons are simply extensions of the half-truths most social media users post on a daily basis.
Some people constantly show-off inflated versions of themselves online, but they rarely consider the moral implications of their actions. Others have become so desensitised they no longer bat an eyelid until someone takes it too far.
Apparently, ‘Fake it ‘til you make it‘ has developed from a motivational phrase into a culture. As a result, it’s important that you stay vigilant to avoid being tricked, swindled, and ripped-off. Generally, there are three different types of scammer to look out for online:
- Professionals who are out to con you from the start
- Directors who turn a blind eye to misconduct when they’re rescuing a struggling company
- Business and trading partners whose greed is greater than their best intentions
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that social media is becoming increasingly influential, so think twice, or even three times before you get reeled in.