28th Annual Webby Awards March 14, 2024

AARP Studios on Exposing Cons in ‘The Perfect Scam’

Dive into the revealing series that uncovers modern scams with tips on how to avoid them

From timeshares and mail fraud to spam and concert ticket grift, scams take many different forms in the digital world. It’s getting harder to tell the real from the con—AARP Studios took it upon themselves to keep folks in on all the unusual ways they could get scammed. Produced by their Fraud Watch Network, The Perfect Scam is a podcast sharing stories of people who were targets of a hustle. Each episode spotlights a unique tale of deception, laying a way out in the case that listeners run into similar schemes. 

The critical series won a 2023 Webby Award for Best Branded Podcast. We spoke with the team behind the project on scams, the lightbulb moment that led to the series and what it took to develop one of the most compelling audio projects online. 


How did AARP Studios develop the idea for The Perfect Scam? What did the process of developing the podcast look like? 

Fraud is a billion-dollar industry affecting people of all ages. Transnational criminal enterprises target individual consumers every day with growing sophistication, and in the fight against fraud, we believe knowledge is the ultimate power. That’s why AARP is dedicated to the mission of equipping consumers with the very latest information and fraud-prevention resources. The Perfect Scam, a project of AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, is a weekly podcast hosted by award-winning journalist Bob Sullivan and was created with this mission in mind. The podcast seeks to increase awareness of all types of fraud across all demographics, including AARP members and nonmembers; increase the reach of the Fraud Watch Network’s resources; and arm listeners with the knowledge to protect themselves against scams.

What inspired The Perfect Scam? What projects or creators did you have on your mood board? 

We feel the best way to tell these stories is in the vein of true crime with compelling characters and twists and turns.

What does the production process look like—from initial script to release? 

We spend a significant amount of time researching stories and talking to victims of fraud, law enforcement and experts to find the most compelling, unique stories that make for a great podcast storytelling experience. The stories are vetted and go through an approval process before our host sits down for remote interviews. Once the episode is scripted it moves through production: VO, rough cut, reviews, final sound design and uploading to our hosting platform all within about two weeks. We also create original artwork and build web pages for each episode.

What are some of the apps and tools instrumental in bringing the podcast to life? 

AARP Studios runs on a ProTools infrastructure for our studio recordings and most of our editing. We compose original music tracks that we play live into the tape to give a very “film-scored” feel that enhances and supports the storytelling. For that we use different virtual instruments like Xpand!2 from Avid. Our artwork is created with Photoshop, Illustrator and Blender. Other tools we use are Zoom, Descript, Teams, Box and Google docs.

What audiences were you aiming to reach? What about your work do you believe resonated with your target audiences? 

As a project of AARP, our focus is the 50+ audience, although our goal is to reach a wider audience who may have a family member or loved one who has been targeted by a scam. Additionally, we’ve learned many of our listeners are individuals who are simply interested in a good true crime story. Engaged listeners will share what they have learned with their friends and family.

Could you share some fun facts or easter eggs about the podcast? 

In our stories, the victims are the heroes. We often learn of stories from the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline, a free resource for AARP members and nonmembers alike. Trained fraud specialists and volunteers field thousands of calls each month where they provide guidance you can trust, free of judgment. Also, we often hear from listeners who say they have avoided a scam after hearing about it on the podcast.

What fuels AARP Studios’ imagination and creativity? 

We are dedicated to sharing unique and compelling stories, and we are inspired by the brave people who share their often painful experiences with us. The process of sharing their stories and potentially preventing others from becoming victims can be healing. That bravery and determination keeps our team inspired every day.

What advice would you give someone just starting in the podcast industry? 

In a crowded podcasting landscape, it’s important that your podcast fills a need, something that might be missing from the existing offerings. It’s also important to have a passion for your subject matter. And invest in good equipment like a Shure MV7 microphone, which is what Bob uses.

What does winning a Webby Award mean to you? 

It’s a great honor, a validation of our hard work, and an invitation to keep going.