The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Scams
Fake Chippendales Scam — Recently the "202 Market" bar in Roanoke, VA advertised that it was going to be hosting the famous Chippendales dancers. But soon it had to retract its announcement and admit that it had fallen victim to a scam. It had been deceived by a group of frauds posing as the Chippendales — Chippenfakes, you might call them. [roanoke.com] Apparently the Roanoke bar isn't alone in falling for this scam. Kevin Denberg, manager of the real Chippendales, warns that there are a number of fraudulent…
Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2012.   Comments (5)

The Great Emu Scam of 2012 — Indian newspapers are reporting the exposure of a major scam involving emu farming. Thousands of people were promised that in return for a modest investment in an emu farm, they soon would be earning thousands of rupees every month. They were led to believe this on the basis of the supposedly massive demand for emu meat and emu-oil cosmetics. The scam was exposed when investors realized that their monthly payments were failing to materialize. [thehindu.com, indiatimes.com]
Posted: Sun Aug 12, 2012.   Comments (2)

Earn Money Working at Home—Become an Envelope Elf! — The consumer affairs office of the state of Massachusetts has created a series of phony websites designed to teach people how to avoid online scams. The sites advertise products such as work-at-home deals, weight-loss products, and free trips. If anyone tries to order something from these sites, they're directed to a page identifying it as a scam and telling them how they could have spotted the scam. My favorite one is the "Envelope Elf" site. The SEC did something similar back in…
Posted: Fri May 18, 2012.   Comments (1)

The Old Potato/Laptop Switcheroo Scam — I'm assuming the scammers must stuff the potatoes inside a laptop box. Otherwise I'm not sure how they convince their victims to walk away with a bag of potatoes instead of a laptop. Manchester police appeal over potato laptop fraud bbc.co.uk Police say at least four people have been approached by two men offering to sell them a laptop or iPhone. One man paid up to £1,400 and walked away with a rucksack full of potatoes. Other victims received bottles of soft drinks. Police said the…
Posted: Wed May 16, 2012.   Comments (0)


Marl the Stock-Picking Robot — Accipiter already posted about this in the forum, but the story is odd enough that it deserves to be on the front page. Back in 2007, two teenage twins from North Tyneside, Alexander and Thomas Hunter, began selling a stock newsletter in which they recommended stocks supposedly selected by an AI robot named Marl. Investors could also pay to get advice through a variety of websites run by the twins, daytradingrobot.com, doublingstocks.com, and equitypromoter.com. Or would-be…
Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2012.   Comments (0)

Scammers vs. lawyers vs. bankers — It's kinda hard to know who, if anyone, to feel sympathy for here. (Thanks, Bob!) Lawyer falls for Nigerian e-mail scam, sues Wells Fargo bizjournals.com An Edina law firm that lost nearly $400,000 in a Nigerian wire-fraud scam is claiming that Wells Fargo, which handled the fund transfers, should cover its losses. The Star Tribune reports on the lawsuit by Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz, which three years ago received an e-mail from someone purporting to be a Korean woman who needed the…
Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012.   Comments (0)

Clay iPads — At least 10 people in Vancouver who bought iPad 2s have reported opening up the packaging only to discover it contained a slab of modeling clay, not an iPad. It's an old strategy for thieves to conceal their crime by replacing the item in the box with something of lesser value. Reminds me of the case from 2006 of the Hawaiian boy who opened an iPod box on Christmas Day, only to discover it contained a package of meat. Link: Yahoo!
Posted: Fri Jan 20, 2012.   Comments (1)

UST Development Phony Invoice Scam — Over the weekend I received the following letter in the mail from UST Development, Inc.: I had no idea who this company was, or why I owed them money. Nevertheless, my first reaction was to assume that the invoice must somehow be related to one of the contractors I've had work on my house during the past year -- and that I should therefore probably pay it. But then my more suspicious instincts kicked in, and I decided to google the company. The first result that popped up was
Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2011.   Comments (3)

Fake Salvation Army Bell Ringers — Police are warning that a fake Salvation Army bell ringer is on the loose in Topeka, Kansas: The "freelance ringer," as Yockey termed the man, had worked for the Salvation Army for the holiday season but began to show up late for his shifts. Then, the day before he was fired, the man placed a Santa hat atop his red kettle and told passersby that the kettle was full and to place money in the hat. He was then fired. But on Sunday, when ringers don't work but many of the racks holding the…
Posted: Thu Dec 17, 2009.   Comments (19)

The Con Artist Hall of Infamy — A new site debuted three days ago: The Con Artist Hall of Infamy. It's tagline is: Finally there is a place to induct the champions of greed and deception. As interesting as the site itself is the fact that it's being bankrolled by two billionaires, Warren Hellman and Arthur Rock, who decided that there needed to be a site devoted to offering the big picture on fraudsters and con artists. Billionaires with an interest in promoting knowledge about the history of deception! In my…
Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009.   Comments (1)

Fake Chinese ‘Made in India’ Garments sold in Nigeria — The commerce department of India is considering filing a formal diplomatic complaint against China because of Chinese garments being sold in Nigeria with fake "Made in India" tags. I'm sure it's a serious diplomatic matter, but if you could just somehow add a Russian gangster and a Spanish prisoner into the mix, you'd have a perfect storm of scam artists. [Economic Times]
Posted: Wed Jun 24, 2009.   Comments (4)

Snake Head with Broccoli — The latest case of the gross things found in food scam: A man dining at TGI Friday's claimed he found a rotting snake head in his side order of broccoli. But testing has now revealed that the snake's head was never cooked and must have been placed in the broccoli at some point after the cooking process. So foul play is now suspected. The guy who found the head claims he didn't put it there, and since he isn't suing the restaurant, he may be telling the truth.
Posted: Mon May 11, 2009.   Comments (4)

Pigeon Drop Scam Becomes Robbery — There's a report of a pigeon drop scam in which the scammers approached a woman at an ATM and tried to convince her to buy a diamond (that was supposedly such a bargain that she'd easily make a profit if she resold it). But in this case the scammers got tired of haggling with her and eventually just grabbed her money and ran. Which means that the scammers are now guilty of grand theft. [Mercury News]
Posted: Fri Apr 17, 2009.   Comments (6)

Another Cancer Hoaxer — Dallas, Texas is home to the latest case of Munchausen Syndrome. Hope Ybarra managed to raise $100,000 by convincing an entire community that she was dying of cancer. She even fooled her family. Apparently the ruse went on for years. To their credit, once her family found out she wasn't really sick they put an end to the entire thing and are offering to return everyone's money. [Yahoo! Video]
Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2009.   Comments (15)

Fake death and fake funeral — Faye Shilling is accused of not only buying life insurance policies for people who didn't exist, but also of holding fake funerals for their (fake) deaths. She would fill the casket with "various materials" to make it the right weight, then bury it. And then, because she was afraid authorities would somehow later find an empty casket, she would file fake documents to indicate the body had been exhumed and then file more fake documents to show it had been cremated. [Daily Breeze]
Posted: Thu Apr 09, 2009.   Comments (1)

Reusing your hotel towels: sensible behavior or scam? — Jill Hunter Pellettieri writes in Slate.com about how she hates those notices you now find in all the hotels asking you to re-use your towels in order to "Save Our Planet." Like her, I find them to be disingenuous. The real beneficiaries are the hotels, not the environment, because the hotels save lots of money on laundry costs, and they don't bother to pass those cost-savings along to the customers. [slate.com]
Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2009.   Comments (24)

The Fake Acai Berry Diet Girl — Following up on Accipiter's post in the forum about the Acai berry weight-loss scam -- one of the interesting (and sleazy) things about the scam is the proliferation of fake diet blogs promoting these Acai berries. The sites go by names such as kirstensweightloss.com, rachelsweightloss.com, patdietblog.com, etc. etc. The sites have before and after pictures of the Acai berry dieters, but pictures of the same women appear on different sites... under different names. For instance, the…
Posted: Wed Mar 25, 2009.   Comments (31)

The psychic and the anti-negativity statue — Another case of a victim so stupid they probably deserved to be swindled. When asked why his client continued to pay thousands of dollars to a psychic who promised to build him a gold "anti-negativity" statue, Charles Silveira's lawyer explained, "She gave him positive feedback for him to believe in her representations of what she was saying." Of course she gave him positive feedback, because all the guy's money ($247,850 in total) had worked an anti-negativity charm on her. Link: NJ.com.
Posted: Fri Mar 13, 2009.   Comments (2)

New phishing scam merges physical and virtual worlds — Police in Grand Forks, Michigan North Dakota report that people are finding fake parking tickets on their cars that direct them to go to horribleparking.com to view information about standard parking regulations. When they visit the site, a virus is downloaded onto their computer. It's not clear what the virus does, but it seems like a pretty elaborate way to infect someone's computer. Also, an expensive way. Printing fake tickets and paying someone to distribute them has to cost a lot…
Posted: Thu Feb 05, 2009.   Comments (6)

Scams in the News — I'm sure everyone has heard by now of Bernard Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi Scheme, which is being described as the biggest scam in Wall Street history. It's already old news. So here are some other scam-related links: • Slate offers a brief Guide to Financial Scams, explaining the difference between a Ponzi Scheme and a Pyramid Scheme. (Ponzi schemes funnel money to a single person; pyramid schemes distribute the money among a larger group of people.) • The Wall Street Journal tells…
Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2008.   Comments (1)

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