REVIEW: Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller

Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller is a new documentary series presented by National Geographic, following Mariana, a reporter, as she goes into dangerous black markets and interviews the people who profit from them. She explores how these people get their goods, the scammers’ motivations, and the inner workings of the trafficking world from multiple different points of view. The show premiers new episodes every Wednesday at 9/8c. So far, in this first season, only the first episode has come out. But it has got me hooked already!

Mariana goes into the inner world of scamming, in Jamaica and in Israel. In Jamaica, she learns how people get rich quick by phone calls telling people they won a new car, or millions of dollars, if they just send a deposit to the person doing the scam. And, not surprisingly, many of their victims who actually fall for it are older, white, American people. Mariana talks to several different scammers, women and men, who hide their faces and have their voices distorted so as not to be recognized by the police force that specifically hunts down those who scam. What was interesting to me was that a lot of the Jamaican people explained that they felt they were getting reparations that they never received from their people being enslaved, used, and not taken care of by the United States, which I think is a pretty solid argument. They also said that it is a really easy way to make money, as high-paying jobs, or really, any jobs at all, are somewhat scarce. It was very intriguing, and Mariana also commented on this, that the people who scam and take thousands of dollars from others do not seem remorseful or guilty at all. In fact, some of them even seem proud of what they do.

In Israel, Mariana investigates a different kind of scamming- fake stocks. Many undercover companies, sitting in plain sight in the hubbub of Tel Aviv, set up a very legitimate looking website and convince people to invest in stocks that do not exist. As soon as it seems like the people will not put in any more money, the company disappears from communications and keeps the money for themselves. One man who is interviewed explains that he knows what he is doing is wrong, but he is so entrenched in the company and knows so much that if he were to try to leave, he would probably be killed. Mariana goes undercover in this half of the episode, and pretends to interview for a job at one of the scamming companies. From her hidden camera, we see the boss tell her that she does not need any experience in finance, just a strong want to make a lot of money, and proceeds to boast about the thousands of dollars she will make in a month.

This first episode was extremely interesting, and gave insight into a world I had never known anything about. I cannot wait to see what other dark corners of the world she explores and what else will be unearthed!

Watch the first episode here:


Hi all! I am a current U of M senior majoring in psychology. I love to experience arts events, share them with others, and engage in discussion about them as well. So please feel free to comment on my reviews! Outside of classes, I am in an a cappella group, sorority, psychiatry lab, clinical internship, and honors psychology club. I also did theater throughout high school, and have always felt highly engaged with and connected to the arts. Thanks for visiting our Art[seen] blog and happy reading :)

One thought to “REVIEW: Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller”

  1. I find this show to be as big of a set up as pawn stars. Where some things are probable the situations are not. How many times during the interviews is danger close and needs to interrupt the interview. While in Mexico during the gun trafficking episode the “tough guys ”
    Didn’t even have bullets in the clips. Come on….

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