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  • Writer's picturePodcast Librarian

Chameleon: An incredibly elaborate scam and a surprisingly satisfying result

The Premise (from Apple Podcasts):

For the past 6 years, someone — or some group — has been terrorizing a certain class of Hollywood workers. Strivers — day players and physical trainers and make-up artists and security guards — receive a phone call or email offering the job of a lifetime. A key role on a major film, or TV show. This offer comes from a powerful woman — one of the biggest producers or studio executives in the industry. All these strivers have to do is get on a plane, for Jakarta, immediately. But when they land, there is no producer. There is no movie. It’s all a fraud. This is the incredible true story of one the longest and strangest cons in history. Tag along as two long-time journalists untangle the story of the Hollywood Con Queen scam, and embark upon an obsessive quest to figure out who’s behind it.

Series or standalone:


Begin listening to:

Chapter 1: The Hook


Investigative reporting


Josh Dean & Vanessa Grigoriadis

Sound/production quality:

Very good

Rating/age suitability:


Approximate length of episodes:

40 minutes

Curricular ties:


Similar recommended pods:

The Missing Cryptoqueen; The Dropout

Podcast Librarian’s Review:

I cannot resist a scam podcast. Naturally, I feel terrible when anyone is scammed, but it’s just so fascinating to hear how scammers are able to manipulate people into believing what they want to believe. In this series, we learn about an elaborate (and strange...very strange) scam targeting people who work in Hollywood—not actors, but people like makeup artists and physical trainers who get actors movie-ready for productions like superhero movies. In each case, the person gets called with an opportunity to work on a movie in Jakarta, Indonesia. Once there, they are led on a wild goose chase (somewhat literally—they’re driven around quite a lot) during which they never actually meet the producer who contacted them—or anyone who is working on the movie. Eventually, they get fed up, run out of money, and realize that there was never a movie to begin with. But these are not the only victims—the con woman is impersonating female producers, like Debbie Snyder, who have built up their reputation in a male-centric industry, and the con tarnishes their reputations. The con queen also gets brash, erratic, and hysterical and makes the workers feel like they are the ones being problematic when they start to suspect something is up. Things get really interesting when we find out that the con queen isn’t a woman at all. This podcast is a wild ride but a satisfying one because it actually uncovers the identity of the scammer, who is currently facing the consequences of their actions. It’s exceedingly rare that a true crime podcast actually accomplishes what it sets out to do, making this a truly intriguing and satisfying listen.

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