The Art of the Con: Four Stories About Scams

This morning, as I filed folders at my day job, I turned to the podcast Criminal for comfort. Today’s episode was Gil From London, the story of a strange man posing as a British sixty-something who almost seduced an American widow named Karen. There are lots of well-told stories about con men, Craigslist hoaxes and financial scams—here are a few of my favorites.

1. “Crowded House.” (Tad Friend, The New Yorker, May 2013)

Mix cutthroat New York real estate, a too-good-to-be-true apartment, an unstable photographer to the stars and dozens of international tenants.

2. “The Secret Life of a Con Man.” (Dustin Grinnell, Narratively, April 2014)

“I do not grift honest people. That is my rule.” For $75, Dustin Grinnell interviewed a con artist named GM in a coffee shop who revealed a family history of scamming, as well as his favorite short-term tricks.

3. “For Master Thieves, Legos are the New Uncut Diamonds.” (Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, Vocativ, August 2014)

When I first read the title of this story, I thought, “Oh. Criminals are hiding diamonds in Lego boxes.” Nope. These clever thieves steal from toy stores and swap out bar codes; resold Lego sets apparently bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

4. “Lessons from a ‘Local Food’ Scam Artist.” (Alison Kinney, Narratively, September 2014)

As a teen, Alison Kinney worked at a “local” produce stand in New Jersey, fielding questions from snobby New Yorkers and kindly farmers. Though the fruits and vegetables she peddled were far from home-grown, she reveled in the knowledge she gained and the relationships she forged while on the job.