5 non-fiction books about shocking scams

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These books outline infamous scammers and frauds and are the ideal post-Tinder Swindler read

Inventing Anna image via Netflix

February is shaping up to be the month of the scam. Between Netflix offerings like The Tinder Swindler and Inventing Anna, to The Guardian’s Today in Focus episode about lockdown loneliness and the scams it enabled, there’s a thirst for the scandalous stories of fraudsters the world over. Here are five non-fiction books about real-life scams. 

My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams

This memoir by Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams outlines her friendship with Anna Sorokin – yep, the Anna in Inventing Anna. The compelling juiciness of the story of the fake German heiress will have you turning the pages like nobody’s business. Although some people find the story’s narrator to be a shallow one, the background and personal account of unravelling an infamous con make it an entertaining read.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

It was journalist John Carryrou who pursued and broke the story of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes – and the promises she couldn’t deliver on. His book chronicles the rise and fall of Stanford dropout Holmes, and the billions of dollars in investment she accrued for a revolutionary technology that didn’t work. Ultimately, this story of corporate fraud is a shocking one, but it’s riveting.




Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope

Billion Dollar Whale is the thrilling account of how business graduate Jho Low siphoned billions from an investment fund. With the help of Goldman Sachs, no less! What’s more, he used the money to fund the likes of elections, Hollywood blockbusters, and a lavish lifestyle. It’s a true story about greed and hubris, and what happens when white collar crime goes global. If you’re looking for an account of a real-life heist, this is the book for you.

Catch Me if You Can : The True Story of a Real Fake by Frank W. Abagnale with Stan Redding

Catch Me if You Can is a tale of high stakes deceit that makes for a truly arresting read. Frank W Abagnale, under alias, was a con man and escape artist who baffled officials around the world. Essentially, Abagnale claims that he cashed $2.5 million worth of bad checks while impersonating a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, a teacher, and an attorney. While there have been accusations that the story is partly fictionalised, it’s still a wild ride and a definite page-turner.

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

The Smartest Guys in the Room performs a deep dive into one of the “biggest frauds in history”. The story is one of dodgy accounting and audit oversight, which resulted in the company going bust. Plus, billions of dollars were lost and many company executives were jailed for fraud. In a nutshell, when U.S. energy company Enron filed for bankruptcy, it changed finance forever. Overall, it’s a meaty read, but a deeply interesting one.