The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Scams
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)

Don’t buy diamonds in a Wal-Mart parking lot — Here's one for the "If you're this stupid, you deserve to be conned" file: The victim encounters two people in a Wal-Mart parking lot who are engaging in a transaction involving a diamond. The buyer (a man) offers the seller (a woman) $20,000 for the diamond. A normal person would think, "This is an odd location to be having this kind of transaction." Instead, the victim asks if she can buy a diamond also, and gets $1900 from the bank to pay for it. Surprise! She later discovers the…
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (2)

Magic Power System — We've seen quite a few dubious devices that claim to enhance the performance and mileage of automobiles. The BioPerformance pills come to mind. However, the Magic Power System (aka MPS Power Shift Bar) is something special because it's a product that's not even vaguely plausible. It's on sale on eBay UK for the low buy-it-now price of £34.99 (about $52). All you do is plug it into the lighter socket of your car, and here's the improvements you will see: enhance fuel efficiency - saves…
Posted: Tue Nov 18, 2008.   Comments (10)

Buy it for my son… — Sleazy scam artist trick: Find a picture of a dead soldier. Post the picture in a craiglist ad for a used car. Say the soldier is your dead son. "All I want is to find the right person... who'll love and take care of this car in the same way he did. I'd like to make a person very happy and to light a candle for my son once in a while." From cbc.ca: It is common for scam artists to pair photos of real soldiers, police and firefighters with fake stories, said Larry Gamache,…
Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2008.   Comments (3)

The Museum of Fakes — The BBC reports that a 60-year-old Korean man has been arrested for running "a private museum stuffed with fakes." He bought cheap artifacts from flea markets and then displayed them as ancient treasures. He claimed one of his fakes was a "Koryo Dynasty celadon." All in all, he managed to earn $443,000 from this scam through ticket sales. Two things occur to me: 1) So people are assuming that most museums aren't full of fakes? The dirty little secret of the worlds of art and…
Posted: Wed Oct 01, 2008.   Comments (16)

Caps for Charity — Another case of the Collecting Junk for Charity hoax. Aleta Brace of Parkersburg, West Virginia collected 20,000 bottle caps, believing that the caps could be redeemed for money which would aid cancer patients. And she wasn't alone. Churches, schools, businesses, and individuals throughout West Virginia have been collecting the bottle caps all summer. The caps would all have gone to waste, but now the Aveda skin care company has announced it'll take the caps and recycle them into new…
Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008.   Comments (7)

$1000 iPhone App Does Nothing — Customers at Apple's online iPhone store recently had the opportunity to buy a program called "I Am Rich." True to its name, it cost $999.99. The program, created by Armin Heinrich, a German software developer, displayed a large red ruby on the iPhone's screen. And that's it. Nothing else. The product description read: "The red icon on your iPhone always reminds you (and others when you show it to them) that you were able to afford this. It's a work of art with no hidden function at…
Posted: Mon Aug 11, 2008.   Comments (13)

Fake Patients — The Associated Press reports that the FBI has started cracking down on a widespread insurance scam in which hospitals fill up their beds with homeless people posing as patients, and then charge government programs for the costs. Hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange counties submitted phony Medicare and Medi-Cal bills for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of homeless patients — including drug addicts and the mentally ill — recruited from downtown's Skid Row, state and federal authorities…
Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2008.   Comments (2)

Horse Theft Scam — Horse thievery used to be a huge problem. After the American Civil War it became so rampant in the West that it inspired the creation of a vigilante group that called itself the Anti Horse Thief Association. This group had, at one point, 30,000 members. But horse theft is something I thought became obsolete with the widespread adoption of automobiles. Apparently not. Authorities in Tennessee are warning of a modern-day horse theft scam. People are showing up at farms claiming to be…
Posted: Tue Jul 15, 2008.   Comments (4)

Santa Claus Currency — The Daily Record reports on a stupid counterfeit scheme that almost worked: A FORGER convinced a cashier a £20 note was real - despite Santa Claus and his reindeer being on it. Stacey Rice's self-made Santa Christmas Bank note promised to pay the bearer nothing and listed Santa as the bank's "chief operating officer" with his address as the North Pole. But Rice, 27, was still able to pass it off as genuine in an "astonishing" scam, a court heard. She duped a gullible cashier at a gym…
Posted: Tue Jun 17, 2008.   Comments (7)

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