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18 Best Books About Con Artists and Scammers

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Fans of true crime: get all the best books about con artists, scammers, and swindlers that will blow your mind and keep you up late at night compulsively turning the pages.

books about con artists

There are currently so many new books about con artists and scammers, as well as tv and film adaptations, capturing the fervent attention of readers and viewers everywhere.

I, likewise, dove into so many of them and just knew I had to share the best ones with you, nearly all of which are beloved bestsellers. Trust me -- these are the types of books, both fact and fiction, that leave your jaw hanging on the floor.

Books About Con Artists and Scammers

Below are the most shocking books about con artists and scammers, followed by more details and thoughts on each one.

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

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup is the book by the journalist that exposed Elizabeth Holmes and her blood-testing company Theranos—one of the biggest corporate frauds ever.

The story gripped the world for years after Carreyrou revealed that the supposedly lifesaving product in this multi-billion dollar company didn't work.

It's as detailed and gripping as any other story or show you watched about it, and it's a book I especially often recommend as a great book for men to read.


The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

#1 New York Times bestseller

You may have seen the movie. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine is the real story behind the major crash that began in the bond and real estate derivative markets benefiting from low and middle-class indebted Americans.

For those who love a dark, character-driven story, this book shows you exactly "how we got there."


Billion Dollar Whale by Bradley Hope & Tom Wright

  • Named a Best Book of 2018 by the Financial Times and Fortune
  • New York Times bestseller
  • #1 international bestseller

Billion Dollar Whale is a book my husband devoured and told me was so hard to believe the massive heist in the story actually happened!

It starts in 2009, when a graduate of the renowned University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business begins a decade-long scam siphoning billions of dollars from an investment fund -- right in front of major global financial industry watchdogs.

He used the money to finance elections, purchase luxury real estate, throw fancy parties, and -- get this -- he even financed Hollywood films like The Wolf of Wall Street.

You'll need to read the book to find out what happened to him (I don't want to spoil the shocking state of affairs), but suffice it to say that this grift now symbolizes the next great threat to the global financial system.


Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel

Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger is the shocking caper behind the recent Melissa McCarthy movie. After a legitimate career writing biographies, for nearly two years, this one-woman forgery business used her skills to pen and sell over three hundred fake letters by famous authors out of a New York phone booth and dodging the FBI.

"How" she did it all will blow your mind.


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

#1 New York Times bestseller

Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake is the book upon which one of my all-time favorite movies is based, and it's written by the grifter himself!

Frank W. Abagnale remains one of the most daring con men in history, going so far as improperly and illegally copiloting a Pan Am jet, working as the supervising resident of a hospital, practicing law without a license, teaching college sociology, and cashing over $2.5 million in forged checks. And he did it all before he was twenty-one years old!

In many ways, his story is the original of these books about con artists.


The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time by Maria Konnikova

New York Times bestselling

The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time taps into the psychology behind scammers and why they succeed, revealing the common thread amongst everyone from Bernie Madoff to Lance Armstrong -- confidence.

I've seen this in play more times than I can count in the courtroom when I was a lawyer, completely baffled that intelligent judges were "buying" something I knew to be untrue all based on the confidence of the attorney presenting the argument. It completely fascinated me, and I firmly believe that this examination of the concept is the best way to understand "how" and prevent future cons.


The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville

Since most of the books about con artists on this list are more modern in nature, I really wanted to include a more vintage, classic grift story like The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade.

This one dates all the way back to a Mississippi riverboat on April Fool's Day 1856 -- a very different time in grifting. When a con artist hops aboard, he assumes a wide variety of identities that expose the pretenses, hypocrisies, and delusions of his fellow passengers.

This fictional story taps into themes of optimism, morality, and trust as a commentary on the dark side of the American Dream.


Counterfeit by Kristin Chen

Recommended by: Washington Post, PeopleEntertainment Weekly, Time, Cosmopolitan, Today show, Harper’s BazaarVogue, Good Housekeeping, Buzzfeed, Parade, Popsugar, Goodreads, theSkimm, Katie Couric Media, The Millions, Oprah Daily, and more!

Counterfeit is a Reese's Book Club pick that's a female caper for fans of Hustlers. Ava is a straight-laced Chinese American lawyer whose picture-perfect life is actually crumbling behind closed doors.

When she reconnects with an old friend engaged in a counterfeit scheme that involves importing replicas of luxury handbags, she's persuaded to join the scheme based largely on her precarious circumstances, but there will be consequences in this fast-paced, quick read.


Cover Story by Susan Rigetti

A Most Anticipated book by Entertainment Weekly, Marie Claire, ParadeNew York Post, Shondalanda, E!, Fortune, PopSugar, and more

Cover Story is one of my favorite books of 2022, as well as the inspiration for this list of books about con artists. I knew I had to pick it up when I heard it described as Netflix’s "Inventing Anna" and Hulu's "The Dropout" meets Catch Me If You Can.

When a young and naive aspiring writer begins working as a ghostwriter for a contributing editor at the magazine where she's interning, life becomes very good fast. She moves into the editor's suite at the Plaza Hotel and sees stars in their future, all while drifting away from her family and long-time friends.

Of course, the editor is hiding a lot of dark secrets to finance their lavish lifestyle, and I promise you will not be able to put this book down until you reach the conclusion, which is one of the most shocking I have read to date.

This jaw-dropping book gets ALL THE STARS from me!


In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire by Peter Hellman

In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire is the story that was seen on ABC’s The Con. What's so intriguing about it to me is that incredibly knowledgeable names in the wine world happened to become duped in their own field.

Back in 2002, an unknown twentysomething became the leading purveyor of rare wines, until April 2008, when dozens of his bottles were quickly pulled from sale at a New York auction house and the author of this book, who was there, began to investigate the web of deceit.


Lucky by Marissa Stapley

Lucky answers the question: What if you had the winning ticket that would change your life forever, but you couldn’t cash it in?

After Lucky pulls off a million-dollar heist with her boyfriend, she's ready to start a new life. But, things go off course, leaving her alone. It would seem that buying a winning lottery ticket would be a great thing -- but cashing it would expose her criminal past.

The conundrum takes her on a journey of reconciliation with her father, the location of the mother who abandoned her, and resolution with the man she loved.


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

  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER​
  • ONE OF TIME’S 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

If any one book brought you to this list of books about con artists and scammers, my guess is that it was My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress. The true story behind the popular Netflix adaptation "Inventing Anna" this is the memoir of self-proclaimed German heiress Anna Delvey's young and naive friend, more than $62,000 had been charged to her credit cards.

Anna started by gifting Rachel things like lavish dinners and sessions with a celebrity trainer. Then, when Anna invited Rachel to an all-expenses-paid trip to Marrakech at the five-star La Mamounia hotel, Rachel jumped at the chance. But, once they were there, Anna asked Rachel to front the costs, with the expectation that she would be reimbursed upon their return to the USA.

When Anna never paid up, Rachel's financial stability crumbled, and so began the unraveling of a massive trail of deceit and unpaid bills that shocked the world and landed Anna in prison.


The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

The Plot was my kind of thriller, as it veered into territory different from most thrillers and moved in different, shocking directions along the way.

It's about a once-respected author, and current teacher, who uses the proposed plot of a student who died in order to earn his way back into literary fame and fortune.

And it seems to be working -- until he starts receiving threatening anonymous messages calling him a thief. The anxiety of the situation causes him to investigate the secrets in his student's past, all while his own reputation hangs in balance.


Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

  • INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • Named A Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by Marie Claire, Washington Post, Vulture, NBC News, Buzzfeed, Veranda, PopSugar, Paste, The Millions, Bustle, Crimereads, Goodreads, Bookbub, Boston.com, and more!

Portrait of a Thief is hailed as an Ocean's Eleven type of heist, inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums.

A Harvard art history student becomes intrigued when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an offer to recover five priceless Chinese sculptures that were looted from Beijing centuries earlier.  He leads a crew including a con artist, thief, getaway driver, and hacker in a thrilling chase that also reveals the complexity of the Chinese American identity.


Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Pretty Things is another fiction thriller that had me spellbound. When one young woman's dreams of a fulfilling career are spoiled by the real world, she starts stealing from rich kids in California with her boyfriend, aided by everything she learned from her hustling, grifting mother.

And when her mother becomes ill, she's willing to commit her most daring scheme of all, involving an Instagram influencer with a tragic past in Lake Tahoe. The paths of all these characters collide and then twist and turn more times than you can count before the ultimate conclusion.


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

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron takes the reader back in time to the scandal that brought down one of the top companies of the 1990s.

This definitive edition was revised for the tenth anniversary edition to explore why Enron still matters and where the key players are now.


The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley is another one of those stories that always keeps me coming back, and not just because it's a book set in Italy!  Tom Ripley is a "wannabe" who meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to find his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, in Italy and bring him home.

Upon befriending Dickie in Italy, Ripley becomes fascinated by his luxurious lifestyle to an obsessive point, with fatal consequences.


The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust by Diana B. Henriques

The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust dives deep into the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, orchestrated by the New York financier who swindled not just his friends and relatives, but also notorious investors, out of $65 billion over decades before being caught.

As you may imagine, this scam left behind a trail of countless consequences. What's always fascinated me about this one for so long was how trusting the investors were, and how embarrassment kept many silent. 


Those are all the best books about con artists, scammers, and swindlers that will shock you and be unputdownable.

Shop this full list of books about con artists in my Amazon shop.

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