Scamfluencers

New episodes come out every Monday for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers.

You never really know someone…especially online. In today’s world, the power of influence can be the quickest path to money and fame, and it often ends in ruin. These are the stories of the world’s most insidious Scamfluencers. And we are their prey. On Wondery’s new weekly series, join co-hosts Scaachi Koul and Sarah Hagi as they unpack epic stories of deception from the worlds of social media, fashion, finance, health, and wellness. These influencers claim to be everything from charismatic healers to trusted financial insiders to experts in dating. They cast spells over millions. Why do we believe them, and how does our culture allow them to thrive? From Black Swan Murder to a fake social media influencer to an audacious Hollywood Ponzi schemer, each season will take the listener along the twists and turns, the impact on victims, and what’s left when the facade falls away.

Reality Show Scammer: Live From Obsessed Fest | 9

October 31, 2022

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Description

In the early 2000s, hopeful reality show contestants in the U.K. sign up for what they think will be the opportunity of a lifetime. In exchange for a year of living their lives on camera, they’re offered a chance to win £100,000, plus a shot at fame and stardom. But when the contestants start asking questions and putting the pieces together… they realize the show they’ve agreed to is a complete sham. Scaachi and Sarah tell the twisted tale in front of a live audience at Obsessed Fest in Columbus, Ohio. 

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Transcript

Just a programming note, we're taking a two week break after this to dive into more scams.

We'll be back with a brand new season of Scamfulincers and some really scary stories from scammers all over the globe.

And in the meantime, if you've got a tip for us or a story you're dying to have us dissect on the show, shoot us an email, scamfulincersatwondery.com.

This is a special bonus episode of Scamfulincers.

We traveled all the way to Columbus, Ohio for Obsessed Fest.

That's a three day festival about all things true crime and podcasts.

We recorded a live episode for the festival, but didn't want our scam fam to miss out.

So here's the show.

Should we get started?

I think you should get started.

Okay, so I'm gonna start with a question for Sachi.

Lay it on me.

When do you think something like the phrase, fake it till you make it and hustle and grind culture becomes a scam?

Immediately.

Immediately.

Well, I mean, the best case scenario for this kind of like get it done however you can approach it sometimes leads to innovation, discovery, and in the worst case scenario, it leads to what we're gonna talk about, which is Project MS2.

So I'm gonna start our journey in England in 2002.

It is the early days of reality TV, which I don't know if you guys were into this, but Big Brother was like the big show in the UK.

It was a huge hit, but especially because there was this idea that regular normal ass people could suddenly become stars and get rich and maybe become a little bit famous.

And we're gonna start at Raven's 8 and it is this island in the Thames.

It's very swanky.

There are a lot of conferences and weddings there and we see a production crew and a producer greeting a bunch of additionees.

They are getting questionnaires.

They're getting psychological assessments and they're expected to complete challenges on camera.

So what they get if they do get a spot on this show is a full year of filming, a chance to win 100,000 pounds, and potential fame and start of a media career.

But what they don't know is that no network has purchased this show.

There is no funding and the producer is a total fraud.

I think it's a great start.

I do not think this will go wrong at all.

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Hillsong is one of the most famous and influential mega churches in the world.

You might know it as a celebrity mega church that attracted A-listers like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, the Kardashians, and more.

And in 2020, it was hit by waves of scandal and allegations of widespread emotional, financial, and sexual abuse from Hillsong's leadership.

Hillsong, a mega church shattered, is a podcast that pulls the curtain back on the Hillsong mega church and its widespread allegations of abuse.

The podcast is hosted by Dan Johnstone, the documentary filmmaker behind the 2022 Discovery Plus series Hillsong, a mega church exposed.

Listen to Hillsong, a mega church shattered wherever you get your podcasts.

From Wondery, I'm Sarah Hage, and I'm Sachi Cole, and this is SCAMPOLINCER'S LIVE!

Okay, so I'm gonna check in with you, the audience.

I want you to clap if you've ever auditioned for a reality TV show before.

What a reasonable group of people.

Okay.

Wow.

Everyone was raised so well.

That's honestly very impressive.

I mean, I've never applied for one.

I kind of want to do it now.

No, no, don't do that.

Why not?

It'll be fun.

Okay, to start with MS2, we're gonna talk about Louise Miles.

And Louise Miles is this blonde woman in her early 20s, and she sees an ad in the paper, and it says, do you want to raise your profile?

New reality TV show needs contestants 100,000 pounds if successful.

So Louise Miles, she sends in her application.

Well, I feel like we need to kind of talk about what reality TV looked like in 2002.

So I think we have a video of back then to kind of give you a sense of what Big Brother looked like.

What the fuck is this, guys?

It's so strange.

It's just, God, it's like watching a time capsule.

It makes surveillance look fun.

You know what?

I'm on side with Big Brother now, just watching this.

It really worked out for everybody.

So we're gonna go back to audition day, we're at Raven's 8.

Again, it is a very swanky, up-to-code place.

You need to take a boat to get there.

That's how I know something's fancy.

It's always fancy if it's on the air.

Always follow a rich person to a second location on an island.

Also, I will say that these people who are auditioning, they are surrounded by actual staff, people with badges on, matching outfits, they're checking them in.

Again, they're giving them questionnaires.

There are cameramen there.

They're doing psychological assessments.

And at the center of it all is a man with a very 2002 floppy haircut, bootleg Hugh Grant.

Oh, don't do that.

You would do it in a heartbeat.

Grow up.

In 2002, I do it twice.

No comment.

And this is Nick Russian.

He's the producer who is making this all come together.

So the group of auditionees are told that they're getting a challenge.

And this will be their chance to get a spot on the show.

Sachi, you're huge into reality, to me.

I know.

I have bad taste.

What do you think the deal is with these freaking reality TV show challenges, dude?

This was a lot more common back then.

Now a lot of reality TV is sort of predicated on putting just two freaks in a room and being like, good luck.

But back then it was much more challenge based, right?

You used to have to hang from a rope or whatever to become a head of a household or stand on a pedestal for eight hours until someone died.

And then that's how you decided who won.

They used to make people work.

They used to bat.

There used to be a time when people worked and they just don't work anymore.

Nobody wants to get their ass up and work anymore.

Kim was right.

And you watched it because you wanted to watch the challenges and see people fail and see them succeed.

It was a very different format than what we're used to.

These challenges are very normal to these people.

There's the whole idea of being on reality TV equals challenges.

So this audition is actually a challenge.

The auditionees, they have one hour to bake a cake, but they can't buy one.

They don't have access to ingredients or a kitchen.

Perfect.

Okay.

At this point, I would like you to clap if you would still be in on this, if you were this 2002 real and be honest with yourselves.

You know it's a scam right now, but it's 2002 in your mind.

Would you make a cake?

Yeah, of course you'd make the cake.

All right, all right.

So with a cameraman with them, they jump in a boat and they head back to the mainland and they ask people on the street if they can use their kitchens.

And actually an old woman gives them some flour, but she's like, you are not allowed to use my kitchen.

But a woman who's around their age, so like 20s, 30s, let's them use her kitchen and they quickly bake a cake and run back to the island.

And they are just like so thrilled that they met their challenge for this audition.

This is just the audition.

This is just the audition challenge yet.

This isn't a part of the show.

So Louise Miles, who I mentioned earlier, she gets an email a few days later because she's been chosen to be on the show.

And she's instructed to prepare to be on the show for one whole year.

So that means she needs to give up her current job, her current living situation and say goodbye to her friends and family all within one month.

And at this point, this girl is getting so many emails.

She gets a contract.

She has to get travel insurance, all this very expensive shit.

And it's rationalized because the show is going to pay for her accommodations, her travel, her food and obviously leisure money.

So all she has to do is show up at a certain date and time in London with just a passport, no money of her own and only what she can carry.

What do you think about that?

I can kind of see buying into this.

I mean, you think you're going to get taken care of by the production.

They've told you, we will handle you for a year.

And I guess, you know, rationally, much like Sarah seems to think, who's going to let a reality TV show contestant die?

And the contracts look real.

If you've never done this before, sure.

That's fine.

Yeah.

Also, like all this like travel insurance, like, let's kind of do that as a scam.

Turns out someone does.

And on June 10, 2002, Louise shows up at Paddington station as directed and she's met with the other people on her team.

And in two other locations around the city, other teams are also meeting and they're all very giddy, of course, talking to their teammates are embarking on this new adventure and they get so excited because they're like, what's our first challenge going to be like, where are we going to go?

We're going to be sent to, they might be famous at this point.

So again, these people signed contracts, they've given up their lives and they still know nothing.

But then they finally find out the show's premise.

So over the course of a year, this group of 10 will start from scratch and make one million pounds any way they can.

So the one million pounds is divided by the 10 team members.

They'll each be making their own hundred K pound prize money.

I mean, Sarah, you know that I'm a rampant libertarian.

So my first thought, my first thought is like, it's just not a lot of money and so much of it has gone in taxes.

You got to break your back for like, what, 60 K?

Is it worth it?

I mean, if you want to be famous, well, this is scam flincer.

So something tells me it's not.

You know what?

It all works out.

Okay, so it's raining at this point and some people are kind of immediately crestfallen at this announcement.

But others reason with the naysayers, they say that, you know, our contracts include lodging, food, travel, leisure money is provided.

So all they have to do is really come up with money making ideas and not really worry about basic survival.

So it is kind of a fun challenge to some.

So as they're wrapping their heads around this new reality, they're also, oh no, they're informed that their first challenge is that they need to find a place for their team to stay for free for the next week right there in London.

So remember, these people were instructed to show up with no money so they could start from scratch.

I thought all of this was covered, though.

I mean, are there any rules to this?

Like can you just kill somebody and be like, their apartment's mine.

It's free.

I do think they still have to follow the rule of law.

No, okay, well.

Clap if you're still into this.

Oh, come on.

No, no, no.

I think they think into the podcast.

No, no.

Would you still stay in this show?

Are you okay?

You.

What happened?

Oh, I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

It's fine.

Oh, you need to talk to someone.

Yeah.

I have some great therapists.

So these people are clearly screwed.

And it's not really just the contestants who don't know what's going on.

The camera operators, as it turns out, are just as in the dark as these contestants.

They're all trainees, so they're people with camera operating aspirations who agree to do this for a hundred thousand pound payout if it airs on TV and if their team wins.

Ooh.

That's a bad gamble.

That's a bad gamble.

You know, you don't have a hustle mindset.

I will physically fight you in front of these people.

So Tim, who is the cameraman that we're following with our group of ten, he gave up his flat, which is obviously British for apartment, to do the show.

So he gave up his flat and he knows it's still empty and that technically these ten teammates can probably stay there so they can make a plan.

And some people are absolutely just freaking out about it.

Like there is a teacher who knows that even if he goes home that day, he will not be able to get a job for the school year.

But you know, others are kind of upbeat and they're still trying to stay optimistic to figure out their next move.

And Tim's place is a small London apartment and Tim, being that aspiring cameraman that he is, he keeps the camera rolling.

So at this point, you're kind of wondering, is this clearly fake show doomed or is this still the best opportunity they've ever had to be famous and jumpstart their careers?

Or do they need to just kind of think outside the box?

I don't know.

What's our gang going to do next?

Okay.

So the next day, these people come back to earth and they realize that Nick's show is probably not real.

But it doesn't actually matter to them because they're a group of young people who get along and they really want to be on TV and they have a cameraman after all, and they're like, we can make our own show.

So they try to get a production company to pick it up.

And you know, they've already kind of set a year aside for their lives.

Like they, you know, they have nothing else to do.

This is really like the fallacy of sunk cost.

Like if you got a bail, oh, just bail.

Don't give it another six months.

With this very wired, crazy energy they have, they end up filming these kind of sketches and they set up a diary room for confessionals and they sit and they watch Big Brother when it comes on kind of for research.

Like they're trying to figure out like, oh, like what they're doing can't be that hard.

So you know, they're really trying to make it work.

And at this point, you kind of are wondering, are reality TV shows just like a scam in general?

I mean, they kind of are really, I mean, like current reality TV shows, there's a lot of lawsuits and allegations of misconduct around them.

They're constantly just getting their contestants wasted.

They're not giving them enough food.

You know, we saw a lot of this with Love Island in the UK, where now they don't even give them booze anymore because it's such a liability.

And people have to give up a lot still to go on these shows.

They have to quit their jobs.

They have to spend their own money on their outfits.

And then what are you left with, right?

Maybe not a great reputation when you go back home and you have to restart your life.

Or you get really, really famous.

Okay.

Yep.

Great.

Great.

And then networks also really love reality shows because there's no writers.

Networks notoriously hate writers.

And then there's no union and there's really no protection.

I mean, it all sounds like a scam to me.

Yeah.

But I'm going to watch it.

I'm going to watch it and I'm not going to feel bad about it.

I feel bad about it.

No, I'm going to be like, this is TV.

So what happens next?

It's not something that's going to happen on like Love is Blind or The Bachelor of Love.

Oh, they find true love or what's that?

No, no, no.

Nick shows up at Tim's flat because it turns out he gave up his housing too and he wants to stay with them.

Okay.

Okay.

So what do they do?

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Hey there, fellow podcast listener, it's Alaina.

And Ash.

And we are taking you back to the days before streaming services, you know, when you come home from high school and it was only a few hours until that TV show that everyone was watching was about to come on.

Well in 1999, that show was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In our new podcast with Wondery, The Re-Watcher, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we are taking it back to 1999.

So get out your knee-high boots and paste that poster of Angel on the Wall.

Or Spike.

Or Angel.

It is time to enter the Buffyverse.

Join us as we slay our way through Buffy's drama, action, and romance, episode by episode.

Enter the Buffyverse with us.

Listen to The Re-Watcher, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you're listening right now.

You can also listen early on Amazon Music or early end ad free by subscribing to Wondery Plus, an Apple Podcast, or on the Wondery app.

So at Tim's Flat, the group has called unbeknownst to Nick.

They call the news and the local news is sending a camera crew and reporter to do a story on this fake reality TV show.

And the team is like, hell yes, it's finally happening.

We're going to be on TV.

That's like setting your house on fire and being like, I've always wanted a fireplace.

It's like kind of this very roundabout way to get what they want in the end.

So, you know, they made lemonade out of lemons and the group effectively kind of like locks Nick in the apartment.

And when the crew shows up, you know, they interview the participants and then they interview Nick and he just fully plays the victim saying that people are calling him quote satanic for trying to make their dreams come true.

Look how sad he looks.

That's the body language of a victim.

Yeah.

That's what I look like all the time.

You know, he's like kind of sitting like a child crouched down his arms over his knees looking for a lawn.

I mean, this is also really weird.

It's not normal for a showrunner or a creator or even like a senior producer to be this involved in day to day production.

You kind of want some level of remove from your contestants.

And he so he should really have like 10 underlings who are doing this work.

So he stays out of the drama, but instead he is the drama.

Okay.

Another thing about Nick, he wasn't just the show's creator, but he wanted to host it as well.

And he filmed this intro for the disastrous launch day.

If only I had the money.

You know, money is the biggest obstacle on the way to personal freedom.

If you can sort that one out, you are laughing.

To that end, I found 30 people nuts enough to do something seriously bizarre.

Oh no.

No.

Those are the eyes of a very sane man.

This is a scary man.

That's how it starts.

Also, he really like watched Notting Hill and was like, he's like, I could do that.

I could do that.

And he can't.

He's very scary.

It's like his Hugh Grant's tethered or something.

So the team at Tim's flat, you know, they kind of become these local heroes after the news airs.

They get recognized on the street and they get their little taste of fame.

And meanwhile, another team, they found shelter at a friend's apartment and she hears them talking about Nick and she's like, wait a second, what does this guy look like?

And they show her a picture and she's like, oh my God, I know him because they work together at Waterstones, which is like a Barnes and Noble of the UK.

And they both had entry level positions there.

So he's just like, he's just a guy who works at a bookstore who's like, I know.

Yes.

He's literally just a guy.

Yeah.

Great.

So back to our auditionees.

After the high of their five minutes of local news fame, reality once again comes crashing down around them because no production company is called to make their show.

And after five days of filming themselves in Tim's flat, they, they finally give up.

I think they kind of just realized that nothing will happen for them.

And this is kind of sad.

They do have to go home and face their friends and family and all these people that they told like, I'm quitting my life to join this reality TV show for, you know, maybe what could be a year.

I don't know.

Maybe you guys will see me on TV.

And can you imagine having to go back to your, your like your job and be like, can I have my job back?

I, it turns out the reality show I thought I was going to do was just some guy from a bookstore who made me like find my own apartment in London.

Yeah.

And me hungry.

Like what a profound indignity.

Yeah.

And the other teams, by the way, they disbanded even faster.

Like these people lasted way longer than everyone else who was like, okay, I guess, I just have to go back to my life.

So most of the contestants are really done with this experience and they just want to get back to their normal lives as quickly as possible.

But Nick has also disappeared.

The phone number for Nick's production company is disconnected.

No emails get answered.

This is classic scam artist shit too.

When you call somebody and the number is disconnected.

That's why.

That's it.

Why?

So Louise goes back to Raven's eight where the auditions were held and you know, it is a very fancy and legit place.

As I mentioned, so Nick must have had some kind of sponsorship or money for the show at some point.

If he's able to rent that place out and hire people, but she learns from the people at Raven's eight that they have let Nick use a space for free in exchange for advertising in the eventual TV show.

This is this is one of the greatest scams alive is working for exposure.

I thought, yeah, they saw it as like a trade like, oh, you get to use this and then we get an ad and I don't get it.

Even the word exposure, it's a bad word.

It's a bad word.

You don't want that.

Do you want that?

No.

Um, so they look into if they can sue Nick, but because he actually didn't take any money from them, they can't sue him, but they keep digging.

So Louise learns that Nick actually changed his name.

In fact, he's changed it twice.

So he went from Anthony Keith Gillard to Jack Lister to Nick Russian.

All super normal names.

Super normal names make me think.

By the way, Nick is spelled N I K.

I know.

Not even N I K, which is like, okay.

They also learned that the address for Nick Russians productions was actually his childhood friends home and the friend had no idea why he was getting all this mail at his house.

Well, didn't they ask?

Can you imagine if you all of a sudden started getting a bunch of mail for me?

I feel like you'd call me.

Well, I'm guessing it was addressed to Nick Russian.

Maybe he didn't know him as that.

Oh, you know, and if I started getting a bunch of letters addressed to someone named Nick Russian, I would open them immediately.

I'd maybe open one or two and I would open them all.

I would build a new identity.

I would be very curious.

I would do, I would research him.

I would figure it out.

So I'm going to start sending things to your houses to address to Nick Russian.

That's why I do not give you my address.

So finally, finally, Louise traced the phone number for Nick Russian productions and got an address.

She goes there in person and.

Oh no, I hate it when you laugh.

It's Nick's mom.

So wait, listen, the office staff that the contestants talked to on the phone was just his mom.

That's some psycho shit.

You know what?

If you're going to do a scam, I can't stop you, but like leave your mother out of it.

What is she like?

Well, she doesn't deserve that.

Leave her alone.

I mean, I think she liked maybe that her loser son was showing some initiative.

I could totally see a guy like that whose mom's like, oh, you know, he's trying so hard to find the thing he's good at and then he's going to get.

He's yeah, yeah, he's in the basement all day plotting.

Just so you know, Nick Russian, you can't find him.

Oh yeah, I bet he doesn't exist.

Our producers and researchers tried to find where this guy is and he's nary a trace.

He's disappeared.

He's gone.

So I want to start analyzing this scam now because it is there are a lot of moving parts.

Okay.

Reality TV, as we know, was extremely new at the time.

It was 2002 and it was legitimately hard for people to tell if something was the real deal or not because it was the Wild West.

Also, they were told there was a network behind it.

They it looked like it had a budget.

I see a lanyard and a clipboard and I'm like, you have money.

I said, you're official.

You're legit.

Take me to where you need.

You would be so easy to scam.

I think about it all the time.

If anybody sees her like later walking around Columbus, just put your lanyard on and be like, come with me.

I don't go, okay.

Get in this unmarked van.

We're like, listen, they don't give clipboards out for free.

Okay, also, even legit reality TV show productions, as we discussed, are very scammy.

If you sign up for a lot of shows, you do have to set aside your life or at least be told you have to leave at this point in time.

You have to give everything up.

You have to find a way to leave work or whatever.

So here's my question for you, Zagy.

Was Nick Russian actually a scammer or was he kind of ahead of his time?

What's the thing about reality programming are really about this kind of scam, generally speaking.

If the scam is successful, it's not a scam.

It means everybody made a bunch of money.

It means that it worked out.

Everybody got whatever they were coming to get in the first place.

If it doesn't work out, if it isn't successful, that's a scam.

And the thing is, in TV and in programming, the only thing that really matters is the result.

It doesn't really matter how people feel about how the thing was built.

Pause.

So what you're saying right now is, if they somehow managed to make this into a real TV show, you don't think it would be a scam.

No, because it worked.

It's exactly what it was designed to do, which is torture a bunch of people, have them act like assholes on TV.

I don't know.

I guess they're going to break into some ladies house and make a cake.

I don't know.

Like, it's designed that way.

Here's my other question for you.

Do you think Nick Russian, do you think our boy had this idea that he wasn't scamming and that he was going to find a way to make it work?

They all think that, Sarah.

No, no, no.

I mean, do you think he was like, I'm doing something that will torture people and like, I'm going to see how far I can take this?

Or do you think he was legitimately like, this will work out?

I think there was a time where people really thought that building a reality show was really easy, that it didn't take any skill, that it wouldn't be that complicated, that all you had to do is just sort of drag a couple of people out, put them in a room, have some cameras there, film it, and that it'll work out on its own.

That's clearly not the case.

We know that because I watched all of Bridezillas.

So it's demonstrably clear that that is not sufficient.

I also watched the Swan and Bridal Plasty.

Did anyone watch Bridal Plasty?

But also like, yeah, I remember Bridal Plasty.

They had to compete in these competitions and whoever won would like, get new tits.

Honestly, that show would work so well right now.

Now you have BBLs, you have like the fake boobs are better.

I would get a whole new face.

Everyone gasped.

But also like the thing about Nick, I don't totally see how he's that different from like, somebody trying to make a profit at the forefront of a new entertainment system.

We just didn't know what it was yet.

He didn't know what it was yet.

He didn't know how to play by the rules or to do it properly.

How is this any different than like, some ding dong who's like, I know what an NFT is.

No, you don't.

Nobody does.

Nobody knows what an NFT is and anybody making money off of it is lying.

But it's working.

Okay.

Well, I guess you're not getting my NFT.

You know, I have had a lot of time to think about Nick Russian and whether or not this is a scam.

Do you think it's a scam?

Honestly, I think he was extremely delusional.

I think he truly believed that this was going to be a reality TV show and that he was a genius.

Yeah, he really believed it, which doesn't mean it wasn't a scam.

It's still a scam.

Is it a scam if somebody really believes in it?

It's a scam to the people who are affected by it, but it's not a scam to him because I don't think he was like, oh, I'm going to get these my money from these guys and run like, why would he go to the flat again?

Like, why would he go back to that place with all those people who he hates?

And he's like, Hey guys, can I hang out?

I got rid of my apartment too.

That's insane.

So maybe that maybe one of the things to keep in mind is if you're going to do a scam, you need to find a way to appear as stupid as the people that you're scamming.

Yeah, don't go back to them with your tail between your legs and like whatever.

So as we mentioned, Nick Russian, he's out there right now.

He's a ghost.

What?

Okay.

You guys, your boss might be Nick Russian.

What if it's me?

I mean, there's nothing stopping him from doing this again.

Could you guys clap if you think your boss is Nick Russian?

No one's going to know that you're here.

I have several questions.

I see someone who's like, yes, Nick Russian is my boss.

Questions about what's going on there.

I think there are a lot of Nick Russians out there.

I think so too.

We're taking a quick break.

But when we come back, we'll take some questions from the audience.

Oh, right.

Welcome to the Q and A. My name is Kate.

I produce the live show and I will be moderating this Q and A. So if you have a question, raise your hand and I will get to you.

I saw you first.

Hello.

Do you think he scammed his mom out of some money because, you know, there's cameras, there's all this stuff?

Yeah, Nick, basically.

Totally.

I think his mom funded it and I think she was like, oh, Nick.

Is that your impression of like white moms?

Please finish it.

She would say, Nick, I know you have dreams, honey.

And here's some money to make them come true.

And you have to pay me back.

I think his mom got kind of screwed over by him.

Yeah.

Well, somebody over here.

So we know the mom exists?

Yes.

Yes.

Do they know who the mom currently is?

Is she alive?

So Louise met the mom.

We know the mom.

The mom's name was not part of the documentary that was made about this.

So there's a channel for, I don't know if it's BBC, but it's Channel 4, which is like a UK channel.

They did a documentary about this that aired in 2002.

I had to email people to find it.

It's not online, but if you have contacts, you can watch this and it's wild.

It's kind of nuts to sort of think about like the way we have to research stories that happen pre-Twitter and pre-Instagram, frankly.

It's a fundamentally very different process because it was so much easier to vanish.

And now it's a lot harder because even if you create any sort of social presence at all, I can find you, all of that will be cached.

But this is before everybody had a profile and some capacity online.

Man, it was so easy to scam.

Yeah.

I wasn't everyone doing it all the time.

I don't know.

I think they were.

Yeah.

Other questions.

So since he's like obviously missing, do you think he's still scamming and what do you think he would do now?

Oh my god.

I think he's a reality TV producer somewhere.

Okay, here's the thing, I think Nick Russian is probably very successful now or dead because someone has killed him.

Doesn't it just kind of feel like a precursor to the apprentice?

Yeah.

Yeah.

It really does.

Honestly, yes.

But that's what I mean about it's a scam until it's not.

It's a scam until it works, right?

Like if Donald Trump was like, I know.

I know I have files for bankruptcy many times, but what if, what if I did a reality show and everybody just takes my business advice?

Yeah.

Other questions.

How did you get into this?

This being the show, the show.

The show and into like researching scammers.

I mean, I think like just scam stories are really interesting because the thing about them is it sort of feeds into our shot and fried because if you're writing, if you're doing something about a scam artist, it means they got caught generally speaking.

And people really like that.

There's comfort in seeing that there's no loophole in your life.

There's comfort in seeing that nobody really is going to skip the line of the agony of being a person in the world.

And so there's some sort of pleasure in being able to luxuriate and how they failed at the scam.

So I just think they're interesting.

And then we pulled Sarah in and here we are.

Have you ever disagreed about a scam influencer that you were talking about that one person was like, oh, you know, he's not that bad.

It's like, oh no, he's a devil.

No, never.

Sarah is more sympathetic than I am.

So she often is able to find sort of like a way of looking at a story and being like, oh, well, this person had a hard life.

They had a hard upbringing.

I am not like that.

So I don't think we've ever fundamentally disagreed.

No, I'd say honestly, we disagree a little bit on like dumb things.

But I'd say overall for the show, you know, it's been very harmonious.

Like we want to tell the same story as we agree on the same things.

And yeah.

You are content creators and content producers, but what do you personally, what do you consume?

Trash.

Like what kind of trash?

Like tell us like maybe a podcast or a show.

All the housewives.

Okay.

I watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and I watch Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.

I don't watch, I used to watch New Jersey.

I kind of stopped with New Jersey.

But I'm open to, I really want to watch many more.

I watch all of all of them.

Anybody want to be our last question?

Is there a scam that you think you would have fallen for?

Like for me, it would have been like fire festival.

If I had the money, I would have bought the tickets.

That lineup was epic.

I think I probably would have fallen for that French guy who pretended to know all the serial killers.

I don't, I don't think I would initially think like, oh, this guy's a scammer.

I probably would have been like, oh, maybe he's annoying or kind of a nerd, but.

The real scam is capitalism and I fall for it every day.

Thank you so much for joining us today.

Thank you for being, for being here.

Enjoy the rest of Obsess Fest.

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This is reality show scammer live from Obsess Fest.

I'm Sarah Hagee and I'm Sachi Cole.

We use many sources in our research.

A few that were particularly helpful were the great reality TV swindle, a documentary by Christmas TV and film and factual entertainment.

And a vice article called reality TV's biggest scam had 30 people drop everything for a prize that didn't exist by Nick Thompson.

Kate Helen Downey wrote this episode and produced it for our live show at Obsess Fest.

Additional writing by us, Sachi Cole and Sarah Hagee.

Our senior producer is Jen Swan.

Our producer is John Reed.

Our associate producer is Charlotte Miller.

Our story editors are Sarah Enny and Allison Weintraub.

And our senior story editor is Rachel B. Doyle.

Sound design is by Sergio Enriquez.

Additional audio assistance provided by Adrian Tapia.

Our music supervisor is Scott Velazquez for Freeson Sync.

Our executive producers are Janine Cornelow, Stephanie Jens and Marshall Louie for Wondery.