My latest obsession is listening to podcasts about criminals who have defrauded, scammed and deceived others. Consumer investigative journalism is now more accessible than ever in this medium. All the shows I’m digging into are free through podcasting apps and streaming services like Spotify.
“Swindled” is my current favorite. It’s an independently produced true crime podcast about all sorts of money-making schemes, white collar crime and corporate greed. The anonymous host calls himself “A Concerned Citizen.” His goal is to shine a light on stories that you may have heard about in the news but didn’t really know all the sordid details. In an interview, the host explains what’s behind his work. “All of the crimes we cover are financially motivated in one way or another. Whether it’s a company selling a dangerous product to maximize profit or someone rigging a lottery, the end goal is always money. How certain businesses and individuals attempt to reach that goal, and the fallout from those attempts, is what the show is about.”
Let me give you an idea of some of the topics covered in the first three seasons (more than 40 episodes) of “Swindled.” One episode is about the financial fraud and sexual scandals involving evangelical preachers. There’s also a shocking story about a pharmaceutical company’s cover-up of safety issues involving intrauterine devices. I learned more about the Love Canal in Niagara Falls and how an entire neighborhood became the victim of an environmental disaster. The last one I listened to describes an American rock band that created a phony fan base and was exposed on tour in Europe, along with the story of a German duo, Milli Vanilli, who were caught lip synching to other people’s voices during their concerts. More topics for future listening include a phony fundraiser for a homeless veteran, Australia’s notorious con woman who committed crimes under multiple aliases around the world, a gigolo who deceived a multimillionaire heiress and the McDonald’s Monopoly game that was rigged by someone for years.
The other series I just started is “Con Artists,” which can be found on Apple podcasts and online. I’ve only heard a couple of stories so far, but next up on my list is a two-part series on the “Father of Fraud,” Charles Ponzi. The term “Ponzi scheme,” a form of investment fraud where early investors are paid profits from recent investors, is named after him.
If you’re more interested in straight up consumer information and not investigative journalism, here are some other podcasts to check out:
- Talking Cars (Consumer Reports magazine)
- Consumer Reports Daily
- Consumer Talk With Michael Finney
- The Clark Howard Podcast
- Planet Money
Happy listening and learning!