Today is Valentines Day and in the spirt of love Netflix has recently released 2 shows about scammers.
Becoming Anna is the story of a young girl who convinced many people in New York that she was a wealthy Heiress in order to obtain a free food, hotels and luxury yacht and private jet rides. She also defrauded banks and lawyers.
It is an interesting story but initially it didn’t generate the same amount of buzz as the Tinder Swindler. The story of an Israeli conman who managed to convince women he met using a Dating App that he was an extremely wealthy diamond trader.
He followed a very particular method that police investigators described as being similar to a Ponzi scheme. He would wine & dine the newest target using money he stole from his previous victim. Once that well ran dry, he would then tap that person and use their money to woo another new target. He kept going until he ran out of targets.
There are many other scammers out there. Most of them use fake personas and do not reveal their real identities. There are also many scammers who only steal small amounts of money and don’t attract attention as a result.
The things that stand out about the Tinder Swindler are:
• His methods were extremely elaborate.
• He went to enormous effort to create a fake persona which included fake photos and a fake business position.
• He had an entourage of people helping to maintain the illusion including a bodyguard, business partner and the mother of his child.
• He stole large amounts of money in a short amount of time and wasted that money living a life of luxury.
That luxury lifestyle is what he used to lure his next victim. The victims were dazzled by the private jets, luxury suites, caviar and Rolls Royces. When it came time for him to ask them for a loan they had no reason to believe that he wouldn’t pay them back.
His thefts were brazen and he made little effort to cover his tracks. Accordingly he was eventually arrested and spent 5 months in jail. It was light punishment considering it was alleged that he had defrauded a total of up to $10 million. This reflects the difficulty in prosecuting fraud cases.
In contrast, Anna Sorokin defrauded a much smaller amount, less than $1 million and spent 40 months of her 15 year prison sentence before being re-located to immigration detention.
She made a start by engaging in old fashioned cheque fraud to the tune of $70,000 and obtaining credit cards that she promptly maxed. Somehow she was able to outsmart basic credit controls.
From there she found a way to outwit credit controls at luxury hotels by pretending to be a wealthy heiress. Staff were too scared to offend a high roller by insisting on payment until it was too late. She skipped out on the bills for multiple hotel stays in New York and other cities.
She was able to obtain a $100,000 line of credit from City National Bank.
She bluffed her way onto a private jet to the Berkshire Hathaway investors conference in Omaha and stiffed them on the $35,390 bill.
She took 3 of her acquaintances on a $62,000 trip to Morocco and left her friend Rachel with the bill. This is the most contentious charge as it doesn’t make sense to accept a free holiday if you’re not prepared to pay your share of the bill and apparently Amex eventually waived those charges. Rachel also allegedly made large amounts of money selling the story to various outlets.
Accordingly, Anna was found not guilty on this charge.
She also racked up $255,000 in legal fees attempting to lease an entire building for her Anna Delvey Foundation. The law firms involved were unsuccessful in their attempts to enforce these bills.
In the Netflix show, she spent time living with a wealthy older woman who treated her like a personal assistant and was very loose with the security of her credit card. Anna took advantage of that to the tune of $400,000. However, there is no other record of this event so it may be fiction.
I can’t help but think that lying about her wealth to obtain bank finance and stiffing people she owed money to is not a lot different to the activities of a former US president who has yet to face any jail time for doing the same on a much larger scale.
One of the most telling scenes in the Inventing Anna show was when Rachel attempted to report Anna to the police. The police officers were sceptical of her status as a victim and considered it a lower priority in comparison to the violent crimes they were also dealing with. This is an experience shared by many of those who have attempted to report frauds to Police.
So long as Police, the legal system and politicians continue to dismiss the gravity of fraud, the problem will grow and claim an ever larger numbers of victims.
The moral of the story is to never lend money to anyone that you are not prepared to lose.