Advance praise

Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married

Kirkus raves about Duped!

New York Times contributor Ellin investigates the art and science of duplicity.

The author’s fascination with liars and lying developed after a failed romance with “The Commander,” an ex–Navy Seal who claimed to be the high-level CIA operative mastermind behind the raid on Osama bin Laden. Dazzled by his charm and doctor credentials, Ellin believed everything he said.

When she realized that her lover had been lying about everything from his personal status—he was engaged to another woman during their relationship—to his income, she broke off their involvement. The author then began exploring how and why society regards those taken in by con artists “with scorn, derision, even blame.” Drawing from research studies, interviews, and her own experiences, Ellin probes the phenomenon of lying.

She begins with the premise that human beings are “social chameleons” who inhabit a “deceit spectrum.” Some lie to escape their own lives while others do it for predatory reasons. Still others, like the notorious British double agent Kim Philby, do it for professional reasons. Comparing her own experience to those of other victims, Ellin learned that the feelings of betrayal victims feel are often so intense that they can result in PTSD.

For women, who, the author argues, feel betrayal more deeply than men, it can have the same traumatizing effects “as sexual assault.” Of course, females are every bit as deceitful as males, although society does not forgive them as easily as it does men. In the end and regardless of gender, people involved with con artists are complicit in their own victimization because they allow “willful blindness” or “self-doubt [to cloud] their suspicions.”

Candid and entertaining, Ellin’s book offers insight into the socially and psychologically complex nature of deceit as well as the choices she made as a duped woman.

Lively, provocative reading.


"Abby Ellin has been Duped, and in this fascinating book, she reveals how and why ordinary people are often deceived by extraordinarily mendacious con artists. Ellin's personal story leads her to delve deep into research of why people lie and how they lie, and she discovers how common treachery can be. If you've ever been lied to, or told a lie, you will want to read this surprising, personal, and funny investigation of deception."―Piper Kerman, NYT #1 bestselling author of Orange is the New Black

"I couldn't put it down!"―Gretchen Rubin, NYT #1 bestselling author of The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies

"Abby Ellin's writing is everything her fiancé pretended to be: witty, vulnerable, brave, smart, and honest."―Michael Finkel, NYT bestselling author of The Stranger in the Woods

"Thrilling, weird, and funny, Duped reveals the psychology of gaslighting, the prevalence of gullibility, and the wisdom in paranoia. Abby Ellin is a shrewd chronicler of cons and a gracious friend to the duped."―Ada Calhoun, author of Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give

"From the wildly entertaining opening chapter of Duped, Abby Ellin explores the why and how of great imposters, many of whom occupied important swaths of her life. Swerving from the deceitful, manipulative, pathological narcissists to the professional use of lie detectors, she makes researching dishonesty an entertaining and fascinating read."―Jonna Hiestand Mendez, former CIA chief of disguise

"I loved this book, and not just because of Abby Ellin's masterful storytelling. This is a book that can save lives. She paints an exquisite portrait of what life with a predator is like. No child should go to college without first reading this book."―Joe Navarro, former FBI agent and bestselling author of Dangerous Personalities

Read An Excerpt



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In DupedNew York Times journalist Abby Ellin explores those lured in and betrayed by compulsive liars.

'Abby Ellin's writing is everything her fiancé pretended to be: witty, vulnerable, brave, smart, and honest.'

-- Michael Finkel, author of The Stranger in the Woods


An investigation into the people who lead secret double lives—and why their loved ones don't catch on—drawing on the author's personal experience.

From the day Abby Ellin went on her first date with The Commander, she was caught up in a whirlwind. Within five months he'd proposed, and they'd moved in together. There were red flags: strange stories of international espionage, involving Osama bin Laden and the Pentagon. But soon his stories began to unravel until she discovered, far later than she'd have liked, that he was a complete and utter fraud.

When Ellin wrote about her experience for a cover story in Psychology Today, the responses were unlike anything she'd experienced as a reporter. Legions of readers wrote in with similar stories of otherwise sharp-witted and self-aware people being taken in by ludicrous scams. Why was it so hard to spot these outlandish stories? Why were so many of the perpetrators male, and so many of the victims female? Was there something universal at play here?

DUPED uses Abby’s story as the jumping-off point to delve into the duping phenomenon: how surprisingly pervasive duping is; why we glamorize those who commit fraud but shun those who are fooled; why certain people lie, fool, or lead double lives; the psychological load of maintaining a long-term con; what makes someone likely to be a victim—sometimes more than once; why men are more likely to be fraudsters; and strategies used by the FBI and other organizations to spot fakers. She incorporates stories of people who came to her after she revealed her own fraudulent fiancé, and even reveals how she herself was fooled again by another boyfriend.  DUPED is a surprisingly relatable trip into the secret world of double lives.