Love Fraud

Rating 8.2
Streamer Amazon Prime
Seasons 1
Episodes 4 x 50 mins

Most modern singletons will encounter a catfish or two in their time, and probably we’ve all sat in the pub at one point or another, listening to our pal tell a story of how they swiped right on a six foot three doctor who turned out to be five foot ten at a push, and who actually sold dental equipment for a living. But after watching this documentary, you’ll just be pleased that your pal didn’t get conned out of £700,000 whilst being catfished…

Because apparently, that’s a thing that can happen. And not just once, but dozens of times, to dozens of women, all at the hands of one singular man. Honestly, this story is almost too ridiculous to believe – Love Fraud is a four-part docuseries which follows the hunt for Richard Scott Smith, who is essentially a catfish on steroids, so maybe a sturgeon? Anyway, this guy went way further than lying about his height and employment status – assuming multiple false identities, Richard sought out middle-aged divorcees, showering them with flattery and typing sweet nothings until they agreed to marry him. Then, with access to their finances, he’d treat himself to new cars and houses, fully draining their bank accounts, and then he’d disappear, leaving behind him a trail of distraught and confused women with hearts as empty as their bank accounts.

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And turns out that proverb, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” might just be true – these women are out for revenge. After being largely ignored by the authorities, some of them decided to band together, hiring ‘Carla the bounty hunter’ in an attempt to hunt down this man and lock him up. And you would not want to mess with Carla – she’s got a potty mouth that would make your builder flinch, and she’s dedicated her life to hunting down men who have wronged women.

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This is a mad, bewildering and fantastically entertaining series. Made by Oscar nominated documentary makers Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, it is simultaneously trashy and empathetic, unpicking how these women fell for Smith’s lies and giving them the opportunity to describe the impact it has had. And it’s not just their side we hear, with captain Love Fraud himself appearing at the end…

The Financial Times’s Dan Einav thought this conclusion gave the series a similar feel to “the profiles of sociopaths conducted in David Fincher’s chilling Mindhunter.” He says, “Love Fraud is really less about one more deplorable man than about the women determined to own the narrative of their ordeals,” in a series which “amplifies the more absurd and darkly humorous facets of this story and its protagonists.” In The Guardian, Adrian Horton says “the series’ strength, and the nadir of Smith’s con, is in the union of wronged women, especially women – in this case, lower-to-middle class, suburban, middle-aged, mostly white – whose stories of manipulation were ignored or degraded by the justice system.” And Vulture’s Jen Chaney reckons once you start watching, there’s no going back: If it were on Netflix, I’d say, without a doubt, that it will be the next Tiger King… good luck trying to hop out of this vehicle in hot pursuit once you’ve buckled into its passenger seat.”

First shown April 2021. You can watch the trailer here:

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