Cover art for podcast The Perfect Scam

The Perfect Scam

81 EpisodesProduced by AARPWebsite

Learn how to protect yourself from scammers. Hear compelling personal stories from scam victims, con artists and leading experts that pull back the curtain on how scammers operate. Hosted by Emmy award winning investigative journalist Michelle Kosinski and leading fraud expert Frank Abagnale.

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AARP Presents The Perfect Scam

March 21st, 2018

2:22

Coming soon from AARP, The Perfect Scam launching Friday April 6th, 2018.

Alex Goldman’s Call Center Scam

April 6th, 2018

34:28

Alex Goldman is the host of the Reply All podcast. When he gets a peculiar phone call from someone claiming to be from Apple tech support, Alex …

Martha’s Jury Duty Scam

April 6th, 2018

34:49

Martha gets a message from the police department saying she's missed jury duty and there’s a warrant out for her arrest. In order to avoid being …

Grandparent Scam

April 6th, 2018

28:43

Richard is a retired journalist who receives a call from someone claiming to be his grandson in jail. The young man on the other end of the line tells Richard he needs money to help him get out. By asking the right …

Grace’s Gold and Silver Scam

April 27th, 2018

27:38

After her father dies, Grace is in charge of investing his lifetime savings. She decides to put the money into gold and silver. Along the way, she …

Tracy’s Romance Scam

May 4th, 2018

27:19

Tracy is looking for companionship when she makes a connection online with a widower. They begin talking every day. Her new boyfriend tells her he must leave the country for work, but once he's overseas he starts asking …

Married and Betrayed

May 11th, 2018

22:37

Andrea’s husband secretly operated a Ponzi scheme for 15 years and stole millions of dollars from investors, including their relatives, friends …

Beth’s Russian Hack

May 18th, 2018

25:42

Beth receives a phone call and a follow-up message on her computer from a man claiming he’s from Dell. The message is strong: Her bank account is …

George & Sandra’s Accident Scam

May 25th, 2018

28:11

George and Sandra are retirees in Santa Monica, Calif. On a typical afternoon drive, they are confronted by a driver who claims George and Sandra hit …

Ann’s Credit Card Re-Scam

June 1st, 2018

31:18

Ann was the victim of something called a re-scam. The scammer claimed to be from her credit card company and was calling to notify Ann …

Elaine’s Gemstone Jerk

June 8th, 2018

29:06

When Elaine makes a connection with a man on a dating site, she believes this could be something really special. Over time, the online relationship …

A Scammer Tells All

June 15th, 2018

31:21

In this episode of The Perfect Scam, we pull back the curtain on call centers and learn about the rise and fall of one call center employee who …

Frank’s Favorite Scams & Tips From Fraud Watch Network

June 22nd, 2018

25:44

In this episode of The Perfect Scam, Frank discusses his favorite scams. Then Will speaks with AARP Fraud Watch Network experts Kristin Keckeisen and Amy Nofziger to learn more about being on the front lines and helping …

Nominate Us and Take the ‘Perfect Scam’ Quiz!

June 29th, 2018

13:50

We’ll be back with new episodes of The Perfect Scam on July 27. In the meantime, enjoy this bonus episode featuring the producers of the podcast …

Scammers Drained the Life out of Our Mother: Part 1

July 27th, 2018

27:20

Valerie, a social and energetic retiree, can’t believe her luck when she receives a letter stating that she’s won the Publishers Clearing House …

Scammers Drained the Life out of Our Mother: Part 2

August 3rd, 2018

24:38

Valerie, a 90-year-old retiree, believes she’s won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. She’s handed over tens of thousands of dollars to …

French Psychic Scams the World: Part 1

August 10th, 2018

25:18

A letter arrives in the mail from a woman claiming to have psychic abilities. She warns you of danger but promises good fortune — if you send her money. This is the setup for one of the longest-running scams in U.S. …

French Psychic Scams the World: Part 2

August 17th, 2018

25:21

CNN journalists Melanie Hickens and Blake Ellis have spent years investigating psychic Maria Duval. Letters in her name were sent to millions around the globe promising psychic protection in exchange for money. In 2016, …

MSNBC’s Richard Lui Fights for His Dad

August 24th, 2018

27:15

MSNBC anchor Richard Lui commutes from New York to San Francisco to help care for his father. Stephen Lui, who spent his career as a pastor and social worker, is now retired and suffers from dementia. After Stephen …

Brooke Astor: Famous Socialite Robbed

August 31st, 2018

25:51

A prominent philanthropist and the epicenter of the New York society scene, Brooke Astor lived a tumultuous but glamourous life. Left a fortune by …

The Godfather of the Dark Web

September 7th, 2018

29:17

Deep within the internet is the dark web, a space where criminals can anonymously buy and sell illegal goods and private information. Known as the “original internet godfather,” Brett Johnson created one of the dark …

A Hiker’s Trail of Lies: Part 1

September 14th, 2018

25:18

When Melissa met Jeff Cantwell online, the two connected immediately. He was friendly, well spoken and shared her love of the outdoors. Jeff told …

A Hiker’s Trail of Lies: Part 2

September 21st, 2018

23:45

Jeff has lived for decades as a couch-surfing con man preying on the kindness of the outdoors community. He spins tales of hikes he’s never completed and exploits the sympathy of his marks with sad stories of his past …

Inside the IRS Phone Scam Bust

September 28th, 2018

23:03

Every year thousands of Americans get fraudulent calls from con artists claiming to be from the IRS. Working from call centers around the world, …

Love Online Leads to International Lockup

October 5th, 2018

26:30

Bryon, a retired pastor, thought he’d met his dream girl online. For five years he conversed over the internet with Joy, who claimed to live in London. So when Joy asked Bryon to transport real estate papers, he had no …

You’ve Got Mail, With Frank Abagnale

October 12th, 2018

16:55

On this special episode of The Perfect Scam, Frank breaks down all the ways fraudsters try to scam you through voicemail and email by claiming to be everything from IRS agents to bank officials. Frank gives the skinny …

Prince Charming Behind Bars: Part 1

March 15th, 2019

32:04

Sara thought she knew everything about the Army major and single father she met online. After months talking she found herself falling for him. But what Sara didn’t know was that the man she’d fallen in love with was …

Prince Charming Behind Bars: Part 2

March 22nd, 2019

28:02

Single mother Sara is growing suspicious of the man she met online. He claims to be an Army major stationed in South Africa, but Sara’s family worries she’s being scammed. Meanwhile, another woman approaches law …

Dr. Rotten: Can Medicare Fraud Give You Cancer? Part 1

March 29th, 2019

25:59

A bustling oncology practice in Michigan is hiding something sinister. Patients come to Farid Fata at their most vulnerable, after they’ve been …

Dr. Rotten: Can Medicare Fraud Give You Cancer? Part 2

April 5th, 2019

30:48

When Dr. Maunglay moves to Michigan, he’s excited to join Dr. Fata’s practice. But Fata’s controlling and odd ways make him question his decision to …

Dr. Rotten: Can Medicare Fraud Give You Cancer? Part 3

April 12th, 2019

36:21

The FBI is on to Farid Fata, an oncology doctor in Michigan who has been administering unnecessary cancer treatments in order to steal $34 million …

Darren Berg: A Ponzi Scheme Mastermind Escapes: Part 1

April 19th, 2019

39:08

It’s 2009 and Bernie Madoff has pleaded guilty to stock and securities fraud in New York. Covered heavily by the media, Madoff’s Ponzi scheme is front of mind for many Americans. It also has a group of investors on the …

Darren Berg: A Ponzi Scheme Mastermind Escapes: Part 2

April 26th, 2019

36:32

Darren Berg’s crimes are catching up to him. Through his company the Meridian Group, Berg has been operating Washington state’s largest Ponzi scheme, defrauding investors of more than $100 million. The FBI, the U.S. …

The FBI's Most Wanted Veterans Charity Scammer: Part 1

May 3rd, 2019

32:40

The U.S. Navy Veterans Association claimed to be a charity headquartered in Washington, D.C. Founded by Bobby Thompson, known to top politicians as a …

The FBI's Most Wanted Veterans Charity Scammer: Part 2

May 10th, 2019

28:51

The man known to Washington’s elite and powerful politicians as Captain Bobby Thompson has disappeared. Due to an investigation …

The FBI's Most Wanted Veterans Charity Scammer: Part 3

May 17th, 2019

32:59

Bobby Thompson was once a respected fundraiser, generating millions of dollars for his charity, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association. When a Florida …

Sweetheart Swindler: Part 1

May 24th, 2019

26:35

Jim spent much of his life building a real estate empire on the West Coast. In the process he became a millionaire, profiled in newspapers and on television. But in 2007, when the recession hit, Jim lost his vast …

Sweetheart Swindler Part 2

June 3rd, 2019

28:27

Desiree, the “Sweetheart Swindler,” has made off with $15,000 of 76-year-old Jim’s money. Once a millionaire, Jim lost his real estate empire during …

The Lottery Scam That Almost Turned Deadly Part 1

July 26th, 2019

28:30

A woman in a Texas suburb is enjoying her retirement years with her husband when she gets a call that will change their lives. According to the voice …

The Lottery Scam That Almost Turned Deadly, Part 2

August 2nd, 2019

24:15

In a Texas suburb, a typical lottery scam has turned into something much more sinister. A scammer has promised a retired couple a fictitious lottery payout if they continue to send him money for fees and taxes. With …

Robocall King Meets the FCC, Part 1

August 9th, 2019

23:27

The average American is on the receiving end of more than 150 robocalls a year. Some robocalls, which are automated telephone calls placed by a computerized auto dialer, have legitimate purposes. Unfortunately, many of …

Robocall King Meets the FCC, Part 2

August 16th, 2019

26:57

TripAdvisor and the Federal Communications Commission are conducting separate investigations into the same series of robocalls that have caused a public nuisance. The FCC became aware of the calls when they shut down a …

Stolen Valor, Stolen Hearts: Military Romance Scam

August 23rd, 2019

28:31

After 26 years of service, U.S. Army Col. Bryan Denny retires from an incredible career in the military and begins to receive odd messages. They’re …

They Stole My Savings in Minutes: Social Security Scam

August 30th, 2019

19:10

Rob, a veteran in his 70’s, was a caretaker for his wife for years. He is still grieving her death when he receives a call from a woman claiming to be from social security. The woman tells Rob that his social security …

The Hidden World of Psychic Scams, Part 1

September 6th, 2019

27:51

Debra is a divorced mother and ballroom dancer who travels between her home in Florida and New York to train with her dance partner. When Debra loses her part-time job in New York and boyfriend in the same day, she’s …

The Hidden World of Psychic Scams, Part 2

September 13th, 2019

18:17

After losing her job and boyfriend in the same day, a distraught Debra pays a visit to a psychic shop. Little does Debra know that the shop is part of a larger criminal organization and Sylvia, the psychic who gives her …

Kentucky Fights Back Against Scammers

September 20th, 2019

23:50

Pat, an 81-year-old woman from Kentucky, receives a call that she has won a $7.5 million lottery prize. Pat can’t believe her luck. Unaware that the …

FBI Agent Brings Lottery Kingpin to Justice

September 27th, 2019

28:11

Looking for a change of pace, FBI agent Gasper decides to move from New York, where he’s lived his entire life, to North Dakota. As he settles in to his new field office in the Midwest, Gasper discovers that there are …

Threats From Home: The Chinese Consulate Scam

October 4th, 2019

21:11

Chinese Americans are being targeted by scammers in schemes known as the “Chinese consulate scam” and the “blessing scam,” through which victims have …

True or False With Frank Abagnale

October 11th, 2019

6:52

We’ll be back with new episodes in November. In the meantime, enjoy this bonus episode featuring The Perfect Scam show producers as they test their fraud-busting knowledge in a game of True or False, with questions from …

Holiday Special: The 1920s Santa Claus Scam

November 22nd, 2019

29:07

Journalist Alex Palmer tells the story of his great-granduncle, colorful conman John Duval Gluck, who created the Santa Claus Association. Before …

The $2 Million Romance Scam

November 29th, 2019

24:06

New Yorker Jerry Needleman was married for over 40 years when his wife passed away in 2008. The devoted couple never had children, and now in his 80s, Jerry settled into a quiet life alone as a widower. Meanwhile in …

The $16,500 Grandparent Scam

December 6th, 2019

21:42

In upstate New York, an older couple receives a startling call from an unknown voice.  They are told their grandson has been in a car accident. The …

Million Dollar Movie Ponzi Scheme, Part 1

December 13th, 2019

20:06

Malcom “Mac” Parker aspires to be a filmmaker. In Vermont, Mac is known as a beloved children’s entertainer, appearing on public television and performing around the state. Mac is so well respected in his community that …

Million Dollar Movie Ponzi Scheme, Part 2

December 20th, 2019

24:23

Beloved Vermont children’s entertainer-turned-filmmaker Mac Parker has been raising funds for his film “Birth of Innocence” for nearly a decade. The film has yet to be completed, and what investors were promised — a …

Beware the Boardwalk Psychic

December 27th, 2019

28:38

TPS Ep 53 – Description Maurine is enjoying the Atlantic City boardwalk with a friend when a young woman approaches her. The woman introduces herself as Savannah and offers to give Maurine a psychic reading. Figuring it …

The $25 Million Tech-Support Scam

January 10th, 2020

20:36

A pop-up appears on your computer screen, freezing the browser. It warns that your computer has been infected with malware and urges you to call a …

Good Vs. Evil: Inside the World of an Ethical Hacker

January 17th, 2020

21:05

Hackers are thought of as villains who use their advanced computer skills to gain unauthorized access to data and wreak havoc. But “ethical” or “white hat” hackers help companies protect themselves against attack. These …

Stolen Homes: Mortgage Relief Scams

January 24th, 2020

24:03

During the housing market crash, homeowners across the United States found themselves drowning in mortgage payments that they could not afford to …

Bonus Episode: You’ve Got Mail, With Frank Abagnale, Second Edition

January 31st, 2020

8:49

On this special episode of the podcast, our host, fraud expert Frank Abagnale, answers your questions. We dive into viewer emails to get Frank’s take on a wide variety of subjects, including using public Wi-Fi, DNA …

Terror Over the Phone: Virtual Kidnappings, Part 1

February 7th, 2020

22:50

On an uncharacteristically rainy Southern California day, Kathie gets a call that will change her life. Her cellphone displays the caller as unknown. Even though she’s hesitant, Kathie decides to answer. On the line she …

Terror Over the Phone: Virtual Kidnappings, Part 2

February 14th, 2020

44:09

In part two of this special two-part episode on virtual kidnappings, we speak with the FBI to discuss how these scams started, why they’re so …

Grandmother Entangled in Money Mule Scam Part 1

April 10th, 2020

30:06

Annie makes the tough decision to put her husband of 35 years into a nursing home for his dementia. She finds her new life without him lonely and decides to join an online dating site to look for a platonic friend. …

Grandmother Entangled in Money Mule Scam Part 2

April 17th, 2020

36:37

Annie and her children think the worst of the romance scam is over, until she comes home to flowers on her doorstep. Annie assumes they’re from Mark, the man she has learned is a con artist, but the flowers are …

Phishing Scam Targets Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran

April 24th, 2020

31:02

Barbara Corcoran is known for her business acumen, and with nearly 50 years in real estate under her belt, the 70-year-old mogul is still going …

Scammers Fabricate Drug Cartel to Steal Family’s Life Savings

May 1st, 2020

25:38

In Utah, Machal is busy caring for three of her grandchildren while her daughter recovers from surgery, when she gets a phone about her Social Security number. The man on the phone claims to be from the Social Security …

Scammers Set Up Fake Coronavirus Test Site

May 8th, 2020

32:35

As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, scammers are taking advantage of this unprecedented time of fear and uncertainty. In this special episode, we’ll hear from the Department of Justice about a new crop …

Felony Lane Gang Steals Purses & Identities

May 15th, 2020

35:19

When Kathy’s purse is stolen, she follows the standard protocol: informing the police and canceling all of her credit and debit cards. She thinks the …

Scammers Persuade Grandfather to Send Ransom by Mail

May 22nd, 2020

28:37

Seventy-nine-year-old Jack receives a call from a young woman claiming to be his granddaughter, Grace. She tells Grandpa Jack that she’s in jail as a …

Hollywood Con Queen, Part 1

May 29th, 2020

32:08

Joe Scarnici works around the globe as a celebrity photographer, so when he gets a call from a man who proclaims himself the assistant of billionaire Christina Ong, he’s intrigued but not shocked. The assistant says Joe …

Hollywood Con Queen, Part 2

June 5th, 2020

39:26

Celebrity photographer Joe Scarnici spent thousands of dollars trying to complete an assignment in Indonesia for someone posing as billionaire …

Rachel Tobac Hacks ‘The Perfect Scam’

June 12th, 2020

32:10

White-hat hacker Rachel Tobac takes on “The Perfect Scam,” scouring the internet and gathering intel about host Michelle Kosinski, that a hacker …

Women Take Back Control from Romance Scammers, Part 1

June 19th, 2020

36:45

After the death of her husband, friends encourage Debbie, a former intelligence officer, to try online dating. There she meets a handsome man who claims he’s a British doctor living in America but working overseas. …

Women Take Back Control From Romance Scammers, Part 2

June 26th, 2020

35:47

After a rough divorce, Patricia’s friends encourage her to try online dating. There she meets Jeff, who passes himself off as a wealthy businessman. The two share similar interests and after an online courtship, …

Archive Episode: A Hiker’s Trail of Lies

July 10th, 2020

48:59

This 2018 episode tells the story of Jeff Caldwell. Jeff has lived for decades as a couch-surfing con man preying on the kindness of the outdoors community. He spins tales of hikes he’s never completed and exploits the …

Archive Episode: French Psychic Scams the World

July 17th, 2020

45:26

This 2018 episode tells the story of the elusive French psychic Maria Duval. A letter arrives in the mail from Maria, she warns you of danger, but promises good fortune — if you send her money. This is the setup for one …

The Money Doctor — Radio Host Ponzi Scheme

July 24th, 2020

29:02

Most people in Dallas, Texas, know William Neil “Doc” Gallagher as the “Money Doctor.” The radio host and author of financial self-help books holds …

The Money Doctor — Radio Host Ponzi Scheme, Part 2

July 31st, 2020

36:40

William Neil Gallagher has made a name for himself as a financial wizard, publishing several financial self-help books and hosting a radio show. Known as the “Money Doctor,” Gallagher handles investments for members of …

Scammer Relentlessly Targets Equifax Victim

August 7th, 2020

37:06

Marni is one of the 147 million Americans whose personal information was exposed in the Equifax data breach. She immediately takes action, freezing her credit and signing up for a credit monitoring service. Marni thinks …

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