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Reality TV Producer Discovers The Truth About Mair Smyth

Johnathan Walton finds out his best friend has been telling lies and has no inheritance

spinner image Episode 79 of The Perfect Scam - The Heiress of Ireland: Serial Con Artist Poses As Royalty Part 2

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spinner image Episode 79 of The Perfect Scam - The Heiress of Ireland: Serial Con Artist Poses As Royalty Part 2 - quote
Full Transcript


[00:00:01] Bob: This week on The Perfect Scam.

[00:00:04] The tragedy is, at the time I confronted her, I only knew she lied to me. I didn't know she was an international con artist. I didn't know she had 45 other victims all over the world.


[00:00:21] Bob: Last week on The Perfect Scam, you heard Part 1 of the story of the Irish Heiress, how Mair Smyth spent months grooming Jonathan Walton to pay to bail her out of jail, to front her $50,000 on credit cards, a whole web of lies that spread so much farther than Jonathan could have even imagined; across the country, even into Europe. You should really go listen to that episode first. But back to our story. Jonathan is still digesting the shocking discovery that his best friend who is serving a 30-day stint in jail has lied to him about being a felon who scammed a travel agency out of $200,000. Normally these kinds of stories end right here when the victim finally peeks behind the curtain and realizes their friend is a con artist. But not this story. We pick it up as this LA-based reality TV show producer is working on his plan to confront his con artist. He's now laying a trap for her.

[00:01:20] Jonathan Walton: I didn't come out 'til I was 32 years old. I'd spent my life pretending to be something else. So this is something I had a lot of experience with. I knew I had to pretend everything was fine while I investigate further. So I go to visit her in jail, and I had my poker face on.

[00:01:36] Bob: He's patient. He never lets on that he knows Mair's shocking truth. He wants to confront her in person. He plays the part of a concerned friend, and then a few weeks later, she gets out of jail, and he picks her up in his car to drive her home.

[00:01:52] Jonathan Walton: When I'm nervous or trying to hide something, I just start asking question. I'm like, "So how was it in jail? Did you make any friends? And how," you know, and when you ask someone a question, you let them talk and they're not really noticing you, so she didn't know anything was wrong. I was a master until we get to the parking garage, I get out of the car, and I confront her, and I recorded it.

[00:02:10] Bob: Here's the recording of that confrontation. Jonathan is seething, but he sounds pretty calm. At this point, he still has no idea how deep a hole Mair is in, so he's still hoping to get some money back from her.

[00:02:23] Jonathan Walton: So, unpleasant stuff.

[00:02:26] Mair Smyth: Okay.

[00:02:27] Jonathan Walton: You've been lying to us the whole time about everything.

[00:02:30] Mair Smyth: About what?

[00:02:31] Jonathan Walton: (inaudible) the whole time. That was a lie. That last four grand you needed that came out of nowhere, that was a lie. You've been scamming us out of money this whole time.

[00:02:40] Mair Smyth: I have not, Jonathan.

[00:02:41] Jonathan Walton: You have.

[00:02:42] Mair Smyth: (inaudible) I haven't.

[00:02:42] Jonathan Walton: Yeah, you're not, you're busted.

[00:02:44] Mair Smyth: Okay.

[00:02:45] Jonathan Walton: So, from here on in, we're not friends.

[00:02:48] Mair Smyth: Okay.

[00:02:49] Jonathan Walton: I'm giving you 30 days to get your (beep) together according to the promissory note you signed.

[00:02:53] Mair Smyth: Okay.

[00:02:53] Jonathan Walton: You're supposed to start making payments of $1900 a month.

[00:02:56] Mair Smyth: Okay.

[00:02:56] Jonathan Walton: So I only want to see you or hear from you when you have a payment for us.

[00:02:59] Mair Smyth: Okay.

[00:03:00] Jonathan Walton: If, for some reason, you try to avoid that or like avoid us or not pay whatever, you leave me no choice but to pursue legal means.

[00:03:07] Mair Smyth: Okay.

[00:03:07] Jonathan Walton: The three District Attorneys who work on the case, I'll contact them and tell them how you shook us down for money.

[00:03:11] Mair Smyth: Okay.

[00:03:12] Jonathan Walton: Uh, I'll file in a civil case, you have a bunch of civil cases against you anyway. You'll be, I'll be one more.

[00:03:17] Mair Smyth: Okay.

[00:03:17] Jonathan Walton: And I'll file a complaint with the LA Sheriff's Office. You're busted. Good luck.

[00:03:28] Jonathan Walton: The tragedy is, at the time I confronted her, I only knew she lied to me; I didn't know she was an international con artist. I didn't know she had 45 other victims all over the world.

[00:03:39] Bob: You might this Mair would look broken or desperate or frantic or something. Instead, there were Jonathan says some crocodile tears, and then she pretty much just walked away.

[00:03:50] Jonathan Walton: Because I think she'd been busted many times in her life. She's an inveterate con artist, so she just knew it's time to pack up and move on.

[00:03:57] Bob: But Jonathan was not about to let Mair just move on.

[00:04:00] Jonathan Walton: So, you know, we texted back and forth over the new week, and I just grow more and more incensed that she's not even sorry for what she did to me. And by her last text, telling me that um, she'll pay me back, and she'll mail it. I'm like "No, no, no, I want to meet you and you hand me a check." "No, I'll mail it to you. I'm not meeting you." I'm like, "You know what, I'm done. I'm going to police."

[00:04:21] Bob: Like everything in this story, nothing is easy for Jonathan. He has an experience many victims have. At first, police seem disinterested in his case.

[00:04:30] Jonathan Walton: I went to police, and I filed a police report. And at first, the police didn't want to take my report. The guy tells me, "Listen, you gave her the money. It's not a crime." And I'm like, "That's not true!" I'm like, "What about all those IRS scams when they trick you into writing them a check. They trick the money out of you. It's a crime." By the time I went to police, I'd collected all the emails and organized them, all the text messages she sent me, all the bank statements, I, I'd written out an affidavit of my story--, like I had dates and times of everything. A couple months after me calling every day, it gets assigned to a detective.

[00:05:06] Bob: But while making those daily calls, Jonathan wasn't waiting around for law enforcement to get involved. He starts his own investigation that progresses rather quickly. It starts with a simple website where he posts the truth about Mair, and that, well, that is the single, loose thread that when pulled, unravels the entire garment of lies. The impact is immediate. Jonathan says he saved a man named Bob from signing over his home title to Mair.

[00:05:36] Jonathan Walton: I started a blog and a website,, where I started telling my story. You know, she had texted me a picture of a guy she was dating when we were best friends. This was the last guy she was dating. His name was Bob, and he lived in Newport Beach, and that's all I knew. So my first blog post was, I posted that picture, and I said, "I know his name is Bob, I know he's an engineer in Newport Beach, if anyone knows who this guy is, warn him." Then about a month and a half later, I get a call. It's Bob. He's like, "Thank you so much. You saved me from her."

            So, she'd met Bob on Tinder, they start dating, she convinced him of this Irish inheritance she's going to get, 25 million euros, right. So she finds this $12 million house in Newport Beach that she's going to buy. She gets a realtor. Her and Bob look at this 12 million house a dozen times with the realtor. The last time she takes Bob's kids there, and has them pick out their bedrooms, right. She puts in a written offer on the house because she tells Bob and the realtor, this inheritance is changing accounts any day now. Bob's, and she says to Bob, "I want to know, I want to put your name on this house too with me," and Bob's like, "I can't let you do that. Because if our relationship goes south, I'm going to own half the house. That's not fair. I'll owe $6 million of your house." She's like, "Listen, if you want to make it fair, just add my name to the titles of your two homes." And she was drawing up paperwork to do that.

            So around that time, Bob's ex-wife is curious, who is this woman all of a sudden around her kids? She wants to know more about this woman. She googles the name, Mair Smyth, she finds my blog, she sees the picture of Bob and the warning, she prints it out, calls Bob and she's like, "Hey, I need to meet with you right away." He's like, "All right, Mair and I are coming right down." She's like, "No. I don't want Mair around. Come by yourself, meet me at the park down the street." "Okay." She hands Bob the, the printed out blog. He looks at it in disbelief. He doesn't believe it's true. He is, he's shocked, so he brings the printed out blog home where Mair is. Mair, Mair was staying with him at the time at his house in Newport Beach, and she doesn't say a word. She doesn't say a word. She just grabs her stuff, and she got out of his house, gets in her car, and drives away.

[00:07:58] Bob: As the weeks and months go by, and the police investigation seems to drag on, Jonathan hears from more and more victims. Forty-five through it all, he says, all who heard slight variations of Mair's Irish heiress story. Others start to hear about this story too.

[00:08:13] I think the amazing thing about her is that she was able to do all of these things at once with so many different people, many of them very high profile in Hollywood, and sort of keep those plates spinning in the air at once.

[00:08:25] Bob: That's Katie Kilkenny, a journalist with the Hollywood Reporter. She's also investigated Mair's web of lies and found a whole laundry list of LA movers and shakers who Mair deceived, but were unwilling to go public with their story.

[00:08:38] Katie Kilkenny: One of the wildest stories I heard was a film producer, who wanted to remain anonymous, who met Mair on a dating website, and they began dating, and he quickly sort of expressed that, you know, he wanted to just be friends. And she, in order to sort of continue hanging out with him, told him around this time that she was really good friends with Jennifer Aniston. And after that remark she began to, you know, provide him with what she said what Jennifer Aniston's contact info. She went to a restaurant and said she was going to introduce them. Jennifer Aniston never showed up. She hosted a lobster dinner where she said Jennifer Aniston was going to come; never showed up. And embroiled this Hollywood producer in a whole email chain with um, this woman quote unquote Jennifer Aniston, um, as well as text messages. And the producer sent me some of those emails, and they were really wild. They sort of created this whole story around how Jennifer Aniston wanted Mair Smyth to get back together in dating this Hollywood producer. And I think the Hollywood producer um, became very skeptical uh, after a bit, but for a while, he thought it was real. And this is somebody who's worked with a lot of big people. So, you know, he's, he's a pretty skeptical guy, I could tell that right off the bat. So it was amazing how she was able to deceive him for as long as she did.

[00:10:06] Bob: Mair was clearly very persuasive, and was a masterful storyteller. She managed to avoid paying rent for months by telling her landlord she was getting treatments for cancer, Jonathan said. He wrote in the Huffington Post that Mair used this amazing trick to make her cancer story more believable. She had naturally low blood iron, and would purposely avoid iron-rich foods so she could strategically get admitted into hospitals for transfusions. While sitting in a real hospital bed for a few hours, she'd ask a nurse to take her picture and then email that photo to her victims to better sell her cancer story. She also earned cash on the side by claiming she had psychic powers. Here she is describing her natural powers on a YouTube video promoting her Orchid Psychics business.

[00:10:53] (video)

            "My name is Mair Anya, and I'm a empathic psychic. I've always had a gift since I was a little girl. My intentions as a psychic is to share my gift. And gifts come from God. It's kind and gentle and my gift is, is to be kind and gentle. I have a client that um, felt her husband was cheating on her..."

[00:11:11] Bob: She knew how to gain confidence. Even some victims still aren't sure they're victims, Katie says.

[00:11:17] Katie Kilkenny: I think I did not talk to anyone who was as deeply affected financially, but so many people were deeply affected emotionally. I think there's a lot of confusion about whether she actually was friends with them at any point, or whether she was always using them. This neighbor who I talked to considered herself a very good friend of Mair's, and in fact, after Mair had gotten money from her, a few thousand dollars, as a loan and never paid it back but was still living in fabulous apartments and threw a really nice party, um, after she was clearly spending all of this money lavishly and still hadn't paid this neighbor back, this neighbor still felt for her, and was friends with her, and even when Mair said she was in the hospital, sent her a nice gift. This neighbor still feels very conflicted. So I did get that sense from people who thought they were good friends with her, that they were hurt by all this and confused.

[00:12:16] Bob: Sure, it's easy to see things in hindsight, from a distance, to question some places where Mair's story didn't add up. But her tale is so important because it shows how even very smart people can be persuaded by a good story told well.

[00:12:29] Katie Kilkenny: Yeah, so even when I tell people about this story, they often say, "Oh, I can't believe he gave her all that money." And every time I have to remind them, you know, this woman befriended people over years. I mean this was a long game, and she was a very good actress, and she was sort of an equal opportunity con artist. She really seemed to be verified and vetted; she used her network to help make her seem more legitimate, So she really had this down to a formula, and anyone could be taken under by that kind of intense regimen that she had set up, intense scheme that she had going. Everything was done in so much detail, down to her email address aliases. She was able to target their vulnerabilities and desires and figure out what made them tick, and what they might want from her, and how she could provide that in order to achieve her end goals. So that's what I took away from the story, was that it could be any of us.

[00:13:32] Bob: Jonathan likes to say that in the same way wooden stakes kill vampires, publicity kills con artists. And the more publicity this story gets, the deeper the stake gets driven into the heart of Mair Smyth's lies. That Irish accent, fake. Mair is actually from Bangor, Maine. He has a daughter in Tennessee who testifies that her mom has engaged in scams as long as she can remember. There is an element of truth to the Irish story, however. She's not from a famous family, but Irish authorities sure know about her.

[00:14:04] Jonathan Walton: So, in addition to victims calling me, one day I get a call from a police detective in Northern Ireland. He's been looking for Marianne Smyth for 10 years. She lived there for 9 years, you know, when she met the guy online and went over there to see him, married him; he was a postal worker named Stephen Smyth. She worked in mortgages over there. She disappeared with the down payments of six people's homes and scammed 20 other people with Ponzi schemes, investment Ponzi schemes; all told $500,000. And then she disappeared, and he had no idea, he checked in Tennessee, he checked in Maine, you know, he had no idea where she was until my blog.


[00:14:46] Bob: While Jonathan is assembling all these stories, LA police finally file charges against Mair and are building a case. Most of what Jonathan has heard from other victims isn't admissible in court, and the wheels of justice grind slowly.

[00:14:59] Jonathan Walton: So, we're going along. There are literally 24 court appearances. Her attorney keeps pushing it down and getting continuances and getting pretrial motions and yada, yada, yada, yada. The DA pulls me aside and says, "Listen, a lot of people in your situation eventually just give up, 'cause nobody can get off work." There were 24 court appearances before the trial, like no one can go to all those. So when the victim stops going to court, they have to drop the charges. If you don't have a participating witness, you don't have a case, you know, so he warns me like, "I don't want you to get fatigued," you know, like if you stop coming, we don't have a case. And I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no. I'm coming." I wasn't going to give up now. And I assured him, "I'm in this for the long haul. We're going to get her."

[00:15:39] Bob: As the court appearances begin, Mair still performs like an actress.

[00:15:43] Jonathan Walton: So the preliminary hearing rolls around, and she does she do? She shows up to court looking like a homeless woman on crutches. Showed up on crutches. Clearly, it's, it's another scam. She's trying to make the judge feel sorry for her, which, thank God, did not work, you know. He ruled there's enough evidence for a trial and, and set a trial date.

[00:16:10] Bob: By now, Jonathan's story has garnered enough attention that there are news reporters outside the courthouse. One gets a camera in Mair's face as she leaves the courtroom.

[00:16:19] Jonathan Walton: Uh, eyewitness news reporter confronted her while she was on crutches, and he's like, "What happened to your foot?" And she didn't have anything to say, and he's like, "A lot of people are accusing you of scamming them out of hundreds of thousands. Do you have any comment on that?" And she said nothing. And I watched that piece of footage 10,000 times, 'cause it's the first time someone other than me is confronting her about what she did.

[00:16:42] Bob: Finally the trial arrives. It's not easy. Mair has a clever defense attorney who paints a picture of Mair as the victim.

[00:16:49] Jonathan Walton: He weaves this tale to the jury that I'm a reality producer, which I am, and I'm making up this whole thing so I can sell an award-winning documentary about it. And I am making a documentary, so there are kernels of truth in his defense, and there are 12 jurors, and if, if one of them has a reasonable doubt, 'cause he's like, "You used to be a news reporter, right?" And I'm like, "Yeah." "Well, you have friends who work in the news business, don't you?" And I'm like, "Yeah." And he's like, "So all those news stories that came out about Marianne, those are just your friends planting stories, aren't they?" I'm like, "No!" I'm like, "That's not how..." I lost my temper on the stand a thousand times. Oh my god, "That's not how that works! A reputable, like ABC News is not going to make up a news story 'cause I'm their friend, and I'm not their friend. I know people in like in Houston where I used to work, or Miami. I don't know people in LA. Like, come on!" But again, he was very competent, very convincing, and after the, you know, the case, the defense rested and the closing arguments in the trial, we're waiting on jurors to deliberate, the DA tells me, "Listen, it's a 50/50 shot. Either they believe you, or they don't. And all you need is one juror who, who thinks you might be making this up for reasonable doubt and we have a hung jury. We have to do this again." And the thought of going through another trial, I just, you know, I just couldn't.

[00:18:11] Bob: Deliberations take three hours. The verdict comes back so quickly that Jonathan doesn't make it to the courthouse in time to hear it.

[00:18:18] (Jury verdict)

            "We, the jury, in the (inaudible) action find the defendant, Marianne Smyth, guilty of the crime of grand theft. In violation..."

[00:18:25] Bob: She is sentenced to five years in jail, though it's likely she'll serve only half of that.

[00:18:30] Judge: ...circumstances...

[00:18:30] Bob: Even the judge was outraged.

[00:18:32] Judge: This case calls for departure. I really strongly feel that she is really an inveterate thief, and um, someone uh who is uh, I think classically referred to as a sociopath. We heard that earlier. She um, showed no remorse um, no sense of contrition of any sort whatsoever. What she did was just soulless.

[00:19:06] Bob: It's natural, but rarely useful to try to understand the motivations of a criminal like Mair, to get inside her head. Her mind, her soul seemed to work differently than most.

[00:19:18] Jonathan Walton: I used to think maybe she was just horribly wronged as a child and now she's fighting back. But I've since done some studying about sociopaths, and she is, by definition and by what I know of her, a sociopath. She is incapable of knowing right from wrong, she's incapable of feeling. She doesn't feel anything for anyone.

[00:19:39] Bob: When normal people with a normal conscience hear stories like this, often the biggest surprise is how much time and energy the criminals spend grooming their marks, building their backstories, playing what seems like a kind of game.

[00:19:52] Jonathan Walton: This is all just a game to her of how much she can get away with. She did everything by the book. Every single con works the same way. As soon as I bailed her out of jail and I, I put up that $4200 cash, I got the money back the next day. That gave me confidence to loan her more money. That's what they do. So, whenever you see a little money at first, you know, if you're inclined to think, oh, well she's good for it, she's a woman of her word, but no, that was just to relax me and to get me confident to loan her more money, which I absolutely did.

[00:20:23] Bob: It can't be overstated. What a great actor Mair must have been, because this woman who seems to have no real feelings for anyone, well, her calling card, her ability to connect was her ability to appear kind. Yes, kind. And it's not just Jonathan who says that.

[00:20:42] Katie Kilkenny: I think Jonathan was first drawn in by her compassion, by her seeming kindness, and a few others I spoke with also said that, you know, she seemed like such a nice woman, she seemed like she really cared about the empowerment of women, or she really cared about humanitarian issues. So she did use that for sure to draw people in.

[00:21:04] Bob: It's not uncommon for people with such a deadened sense of conscience to have to work very hard to feel anything. That's one reason you'll see these high stakes games. Jonathan says Mair would do things that would bring her oh so close to getting caught, but she acted calm. Ice in her veins.

[00:21:23] Jonathan Walton: Imagine if you were her, and you're thinking, wow, I'm on the razor's edge here. At any moment I could be found out. This is exciting. She loves that. So what you think and interpret as, she's always on the run and always scared someone's around the corner, yeah, but I think that gives her the adrenaline rush and she loves it. She craves it.

[00:21:42] Bob: One hundred thousand dollars is a very expensive lesson, but now that Jonathan has lost the money and spent the last several years obsessed with stopping Mair from hurting other victims, Jonathan feels like he has a graduate school degree in criminal psychology.

[00:21:58] Jonathan Walton: So, con artists are like sharks. They're targeting everybody. They have their feelers out. They're swimming through the water always moving, always looking for prey, and in me, she, you know, I'm a nice person, and that's, that's who con artists target, nice people. Con artists don't outsmart anybody. They don't manipulate your intellect. They don't outsmart you. They out feel you. They make an emotional connection and then they use your emotions against you. They just know how to, uh, zero into what you're into, to push your buttons, and make a strong emotional connection.

[00:22:32] Bob: Jonathan also feels like he's developed a new superpower too; listening carefully to people's stories, looking for holes.

[00:22:40] Jonathan Walton: I can pick them out a mile away now, and people, you know, I, so I'll tell you a funny story. So the other day I'm at this cocktail party with some friends, some producer friends, it's like an industry event; so, I meet this husband and wife. They come over to our circle, you know at a cocktail party there's different circles talking. And the, the husband is like, he's like in his like late 40s, you know, a good looking couple, um, "Yeah, we just moved to LA, um, we're not really working. We kind of saved up for this. We're kind of retired already, you know, we have nothing to do. We're just looking, you know, sensing everything out." I'm like, "Oh, that's interesting." And I make a note of it. Later, I overhear him and his wife telling a wholly different story to another set of people, like 10 feet away, in earshot of me. He says he works security at this firm and blah, blah, blah. And then later, I hear him tell a third story to another set, so I'm focused on him now. I'm like, what is this guy's game? By the end of the night, by the end of the night he told three different stories of what he's doing in LA. I've developed this mental acuity, this like superpower to, to listen to people's stories, and the minute they change, a red flag goes up.

[00:23:49] Bob: I would say Jonathan has another superpower, too. Bravery. He came forward and told his story. If he hadn't, who knows how many other victims there might be.

[00:23:59] Katie Kilkenny: I would just say that I think that Jonathan and the various other people who have talked to the press, or the media, or have gone on the stand, um, to discuss what Mair has done to them, um, are really remarkable and unique. According to the US Attorney's Office, an, only an estimated 15% of people who have been fraud victims actually even ever go to law enforcement. So the fact that these people are telling their stories over and over again, I think is really admirable because they're trying to diminish the shame, the, the, the apparent shame of being a scam victim, and so I applaud them for that. And the more people do that, the more folks like Mair, who are serial con artists and who do this a lot, are going to be found out earlier, and those victims are going to save other potential victims from some traumatic experiences that they went through.

[00:24:57] Bob: As I've said before, this con story has an unusual ending. It has a happy ending. Even an inspiring ending. Jonathan found a new cause to sink his teeth into. And that has made all the difference.

[00:25:12] Jonathan Walton: Like most things in life, when something bad happens, it's hard to see the good in it, but with some time, I understand why it happened. As the months passed and the victims started coming forward, I discovered this vigilante inside of me I didn't know existed.

[00:25:26] Bob: So now Jonathan uses his spare time trying to persuade other victims they are in the middle of a con; to talk them off the cliff, and to come forward, to not be ashamed.

[00:25:37] Jonathan Walton: It's become a new calling, because listen, after I started getting publicity from this, from um, the press reports, people started contacting me. I'm now helping a couple dozen other victims of other con artists help bring their con artist to justice. You know, before they read my story, they were ashamed and scared to do anything. And now, I've inspired them, like I had no idea this was coming. So, my life's taken on a whole new mission now where I'm helping put bad people away, and listen, if I can spend the rest of my life doing that, I am happy. I feel grateful she awoken the giant within me that I didn't know. You know we really don't know what we're capable of until we're forced. And, as hard as it was, and as devastating as it was, it forced me to become something I never imagined I could be, and now that I'm, I am that person, I, I like him. I like who I am.


[00:26:34] Bob: Wow, I just think this is such an unusual and wonderful ending to what began as a really, really terrible story. I don't think it's an overstatement to say it's, it's heroic to speak up when you're in a situation like that, because you will be saving someone else. And now people are reaching out to Jonathan looking for help. All of this Jonathan does for free in his spare time. I think the message is clear here. How important it is to tell someone right away if you think you're being targeted by a scam. Don't be ashamed. These people are professional con artists and will stop at nothing.

[00:27:08] Frank Abagnale: Right, and nothing, it's absolutely nothing to be ashamed about.

[00:27:11] Bob: Um, is there any specific advice you might give people who are in that spot right now, I mean that, we don't want everybody chasing after criminals and maybe putting themselves in danger, but what, what are the simple things that people can do uh, if they really want to speak up and, and stop the, their scammer from hurting someone else?

[00:27:27] Frank Abagnale: One of the things that I, I've always liked the best is we have 50 State Attorney Generals. All of those 50 State Attorney Generals who I have the opportunity to speak to at their summer workshops and their winter workshops, they are elected by the people of their state. They're there to protect you. And in all of those Attorney General Offices, they have a Consumer Protection Team that is extremely skilled and very trained about all of these scams. And if, if you call them, they're not just going to sit there and listen to you and then hang up the phone and not do anything about it. These things they keep records on. These are the kind of things they will go out and investigate. Um, I've used them several times when I've had someone say that someone told them they were a private investigator and that they were, needed money to do this investigation for them. I was able to call uh an Attorney General's Office, and someone in the Consumer Protection said that person's not licensed in this state, there's nobody with that name that's licensed here, so they're being dishonest in telling that person that. But it's someone you can call, and you can talk to, and they'll walk you through it. And of course, at AARP, we have a hotline where you can call and you can talk to someone and explain what happened so that they keep a record of it, and they can help somebody who may have had the same thing going on, or they can alert someone that that scam is going on. You don't have to be an AARP member; you can be 18 years old and call. So there are a lot of resources out there, but the thing is to do something. Don't, you know, you don't be reactive, you're proactive. If you've, something happens, you know, go out there and do something about it, alert somebody so it doesn't happen to somebody else. And that's the bravest thing you can do.

[00:29:16] Bob: Okay, thanks very much, Frank Abagnale. We look forward to talking to you again next week.

[00:29:20] Frank Abagnale: Thanks, Bob.


[00:29:22] Bob: If you or someone you know has been the victim of a fraud or scam, call AARP's free Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can help you know what to do next and how to avoid scams in the future. Thank you to our team of scambusters; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; Producer, Brook Ellis; Associate Producer and Researcher, Megan DeMagnus; our Audio Engineer, Julio Gonzalez; and of course, Fraud Expert, Frank Abagnale. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.



Reality TV producer Johnathan Walton discovers that his neighbor and best friend, MairSymth, is not who she claims to be. Not only is Mair lying about having a multimillion-dollar inheritance, she’s using these lies to extract money from Johnathan. As her web of lies unravels, Johnathan discovers Mair’s other victims and makes it his mission to stop his former best friend from hurting anyone else.  

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AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.

The Perfect ScamSM is a project of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which equips consumers like you with the knowledge to give you power over scams.


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Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.