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Meet the world’s worst scammers

Meet the world’s worst scammers

As The Search For Instagram’s Worst Con Artist comes to ITVX, we serve up the most shocking tales of brazen fraud for you to boggle at

By Rebecca Tanqueray, Feature Writer 

Belle Gibson was the poster girl for the alternative wellness industry. Young and attractive, she also had an incredible story to share: she claimed to have healed her terminal cancer through wholesome food and natural therapies.


Bringing out an app and a cookbook – The Whole Pantry – in 2014, Gibson built an empire out of her recovery tale. She inspired legions of followers on Instagram, pledged thousands of dollars to charity and won worldwide fame and fortune. But then the truth emerged: it was all a lie. Gibson had never had cancer.


ITVX’s The Search For Instagram’s Worst Con Artist follows Gibson’s rise to fame; and its aftermath. A compelling two-part inside story, it documents the fall-out of the hoax: the charitable donations that never materialised and the devastating consequences for fans who believed it.


The programme – part of ITVX’s “Swindles & Cons” special documentary strand – also tries to pin down Gibson’s real story. We hear from friends and family who speak on the record for the first time and from Gibson herself, from recordings she made. It makes for compulsive viewing, particularly because the fresh-faced then-21-year-old didn’t seem to fit the fraudster mould.


When can I watch The Search For Instagram’s Worst Con Artist on TV?

The two-part documentary The Search for Instagram’s Worst Con Artist is available in Apps & Games > ITVX from Thursday 2 November. Look out for more “Swindles & Cons” from ITVX in the weeks ahead, including The Football Fraudster.


Gibson might be Instagram’s worst con artist but it’s fair to say that, in the world of scams and swindles, she’s got some stiff competition. Intrigued? Well, on Virgin TV, it’s easy to satisfy your can’t-look-away curiosity. From the shocking to the downright grisly, documentaries and dramas about freaky fraudsters are popping up across channels. We’ve rounded up the best on offer…


1. William Allen Jordan

Find The Other Mrs Jordan – Catching The Ultimate Conman in Apps & Games > ITVX

How do you know the person sitting next to you isn’t a psychopath? It’s a question that would have resonated with Mary Turner Thomson when she discovered her American husband wasn’t, as he claimed, a CIA agent. In fact, William Allen Jordan was a bigamist, a conman and a pathological liar who ended up scamming her out of hundreds of thousands of pounds. It was only when Mary received a call from “the other Mrs Jordan” that his deception was exposed. Over three episodes, this new docuseries follows the real-time manhunt for Jordan, with jaw-dropping testimony from Mary, his children and other victims. Compulsive, heart-rending viewing.


2. Bernie Madoff

Find Madoff: The Monster Of Wall Street in Apps & Games > Netflix

Has there ever been a better example of nominative determinism? American fraudster and financier Bernie Madoff more than lived up to his name when he made off with billions of dollars after running one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in Wall Street’s history. This engaging docuseries follows Madoff’s rise and fall, from the start of his career in penny stock trades to the exposure of his fraud and subsequent imprisonment amid the 2008 financial market crisis. A gripping watch and a cautionary tale for anyone looking to invest their life savings.


3. Medi Abalimba

Find The Football Fraudster in Apps & Games > ITVX from Thursday 9 November

Charismatic, popular and successful, footballer Medi Abalimba had it all – until he didn’t. When injury curtailed his career, the ex-Derby County player found other ways of financing his champagne-soaked celebrity lifestyle: he turned to crime. As well as posing as Chelsea footballer Gaël Kakuta to scam clubs and hotels, he fleeced Thierry Henry’s ex-wife out of more than £50,000. In this feature-length documentary, we hear from his victims, including Love Island star and ex-girlfriend Georgia Steel, as well as forensic psychologist Dr Donna Young, who gets under the skin of Abalimba’s motivations.


4. Ben Field

Find The Sixth Commandment in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

A real-life Miss Marple mystery, the murder of retired teacher Peter Farquhar in the sleepy Buckinghamshire village of Maids Moreton stunned the local community. Farquar was defrauded, poisoned and ultimately murdered by his student and partner Ben Field, who went on to con Farquhar’s neighbour, Ann Moore-Martin, out of further thousands of pounds. Penned by Dublin Murders writer Sarah Phelps, this four-parter dramatises events leading up to the murder, plus the painstaking police investigation that culminated in Field’s imprisonment in 2019. It’s a chilling tale with spellbinding performances by Timothy Spall (Mrs Lowry & Son) as Farquhar and Normal People’s Éanna Hardwicke (pictured above) as Field.


5. Anna Sorokin

Find Inventing Anna in Apps & Games > Netflix 

This miniseries, created by super-producer Shonda Rhimes (Bridgerton), captured the zeitgeist when it came out last year. Starring Ozark’s Julia Garner (pictured above), it’s inspired by the true story of Anna Sorokin, a Russian-born art-school drop-out who managed to infiltrate New York’s high society, posing as a wealthy heiress. Calling herself Anna Delvey, she scammed countless wealthy socialites and swindled banks and hotels out of thousands. Her story’s not over yet: she’s still hosting events and recording podcasts while under house arrest in her East Village apartment.


6. Simon Leviev

Find The Tinder Swindler in Apps & Games > Netflix 

We all know swiping right has its consequences, but the women who matched with Simon Leviev on dating app Tinder got much, much more than they bargained for. Posing as the son of a diamond mogul, Leviev (real name Shimon Hayut) hooked his targets with lavish first dates and, once they were smitten, scammed them out of thousands. Scoring 46.8 million global views in just five days, this true-crime documentary tells the extraordinary story of Leviev’s fraud – and how his victims joined forces with journalists to bring him down.


7. Dorothea Puente

Find Worst Roommate Ever in Apps & Games > Netflix. “Call Me Grandma” is episode 1

Worst Roommate Ever might sound like light entertainment but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Covering four gruesome real-life cases, this true-crime docuseries delves into true housemate horror territory. The first episode tells the story of Dorothea Puente, the benign-seeming landlady of a Californian boarding house who preyed on the vulnerable. First convicted for cashing her tenants’ social security checks, Puente went on to commit at least nine murders, burying bodies in her backyard. A grisly watch for the morbidly curious.


8. Robert Freegard

Find The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman in Apps & Games > Netflix 

This chilling three-parter tells the true, unsettling and ongoing story of Robert Freegard, a pathological liar dubbed “King Con” by the press. Posing as an MI5 spy, Freegard (aka David Hendy) coercively controls his victims, isolating them from their families, playing them like puppets and leeching them for cash. Over the course of the series, we hear from those whose lives have been shattered by Freegard, most poignantly from the children of a missing woman still believed to be in the conman’s thrall. 

When is The Search For Instagram’s Worst Con Artist on ITVX?

You can find both episodes of The Search For Instagram’s Worst Con Artist in Apps & Games > ITVX from Thursday 2 November.


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