Lights, camera, fraud! Our list of movies and more will help you see fraud from all angles
It’s been a week of fraud—how to prevent it, spot it, and what to do once you’ve found it. This is a serious topic, so let’s end the week as we often do: with movie night! Grab some popcorn and wrap up International Fraud Awareness Week 2023 with a list of movies and podcasts that offer a glimpse into the emotional side of fraud.
Documentaries and movies
Pink Collar Crimes, from CBS and streaming on Paramount+
“Pink collar” crime refers to nonviolent crimes, committed by women, usually in low- to mid-level positions. This true-crime series highlights a specific type of pink-collar criminal: PTA moms and society women who brazenly break the law.
If you are looking for elements most common in fraud, episode No. 5, “The Crappy Accountant,” has it. This trusted employee/contractor used all of the social skills she could, including the reputation of her firefighter-husband, to convince many small businesses that she was both skilled and trustworthy, and to ultimately hand their bookkeeping over to her.
We also recommend episode No. 8, “The Outcast of Brownstone Brooklyn,” as a case study. The fraudster is interviewed in this episode, and her case makes it easy to identify the three elements of the fraud triangle at play—pressure, opportunity and rationalization. This could serve as a great episode to watch as part of a group fraud training with your fellow employees. Provide each participant a sheet of paper with the three fraud triangle sides listed. As they watch, have them jot down what they hear under each side of the fraud triangle, then regroup and discuss afterward.
The Tinder Swindler, Netflix
Three victims of the famous con artist Shimon Hayut, aka Simon Leviev, tell their stories in this documentary. Using emotional manipulation—a powerful tool—Hayut cons women across Europe out of millions of dollars by getting them to believe his diamond business has put him in danger. Learn how the con artist hid his crimes, and what has happened to him and his victims since the fraud came to light.
These next two reviews are from a post by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and we think they’re spot-on:
Catch Me If You Can (2002), streaming on a variety of platforms
Even though it’s nearly 20 years old, it’s still one of the top-rated movies on financial fraud based on the true yet hard-to-believe story of Frank Abagnale. Even before Abagnale turned 19 years old, he was worth millions of dollars. Eventually, he poses as a pilot of a major airline, a surgical doctor, a prosecuting attorney, and other professionals without a high school education.
This movie demonstrates that age is meaningless. Abagnale started his crimes at 16, stealing his father’s credit card. It wasn’t until many years later that he was convicted of cashing more than $2.5 million in bad checks. The movie illustrates how confidence is truly the key.
Wizard of Lies, streaming on a variety of services
The drama is based on the life and crimes of the late Bernie Madoff, who founded his own company on Wall Street in the 1960s. Over many years, his company turned into one of the largest investment funds in the world. His arrest in 2008 revealed the truth behind his multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, the largest in history.
The investigator in all of us should learn a few things from this piece of history:
- Never give up on a hunch. There were a few people who knew something was not right with Madoff’s numbers, and they kept at it.
- Sometimes we must swallow our pride. If it doesn’t make sense to you, it might not make sense to others either. Swallow our pride and ask others to explain it to us. Madoff used complicated quantitative analytics to keep investigators from getting too close.
These are like potato chips: We can’t pick just one. We will, however, name-check ACFE’s Fraud Talk podcast, which releases monthly episodes that delve into all the latest fraud cases. It’s on our “latest” list on our podcast app!
Check these lists for more podcast recommendations: