Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married
In 2009, the journalist Abby Ellin fell in love with an unbelievable guy. He was a doctor involved with international humanitarian causes. He was a former Navy SEAL with connections to the Central Intelligence Agency and a chest full of medals from anti-terrorism black ops. He ran the medical unit at Guantánamo Bay. And, as we know from the start in Duped, all that (or most of it) was bunk: Her beau was a serial fabulist. In the wake of this revelation, and the break-up, Ellin set out to understand what drove him to lie and why she fell for it, consulting the psychological literature, case studies of other con men and women, and her almost-husband's previous victims. The contextual material sometimes feels like padding, but at its best, the book is charged by curiosity about what people need from each other, and the lies and suspensions of disbelief that sometimes help them get it.
A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2019 issue of Pacific Standard.