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How Scammers, Grifters, and Con Artists Are Taking Over the Internet – and Why We’re Following

Hanover Square Press,

15 min read
7 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Flimflammer Billy McFarland’s infamous 2017 Fyre Festival offers a generational cautionary tale.

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


In 2017, unscrupulous entrepreneur Billy McFarland managed to draw thousands of wealthy kids to the Bahamas for a supposedly deluxe happening that never happened: the now-infamous Fyre Festival. The next year, he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to a minimum-security prison. However, no sooner was McFarland out on bail than he went back to his old tricks. In this page-turning book, journalist Gabrielle Bluestone investigates why so many respected entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives and marketers fall for scams, like Theranos’s unproven blood-testing devices, touted restaurants boosted by false claims and McFarland’s flimflam festival – people, she says, who should have known much better.


In the post-truth world, people let their emotions trick them.

Ads for the Fyre Festival first appeared on Instagram in December 2016. An amateurish commercial soon followed, forecasting an extravagant concert experience over two weekends in June 2017 for 10,000 people. The promos touted the festival’s $250,000 ticket packages and exclusive setting: a private island in the Bahamas, with a list of former owners including lawyers associated with cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. Organizers states that concert-goers would arrive by private jet, have access to yachts, meet fashion models, eat cuisine by famous chefs and sleep in luxury bungalows. Blink-182 – a band well past its prime – was named as the headliner. The slapdash nature of the promotional materials offered an early sign that a con was in the offing – so why did almost no one spot the scam?

A ready willingness to be conned – to buy tickets to the Fyre Festival, for example – is not a trait limited to generation Zers and millennials. This willingness is the signature of an era in which emotion-based information trumps evidence-based...

About the Author

Attorney and former Vice journalist Gabrielle Bluestone produced Netflix’s documentary Fyre.

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