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Con Artists
Status: Scam
This leaves me at a complete loss for words. It's amazing:

HARARE, Zimbabwe - A bogus traditional healer who persuaded a businesswoman to hire "mermaids" and accommodate them in a Harare hotel to help find a stolen car was convicted of theft by false pretenses, court officials said Tuesday...
In Zimbabwe, where tribal superstition is deeply entrenched, prosecutors said Chizema persuaded Margaret Mapfumo to pay 200 million Zimbabwe dollars (about $30,000) to hire mermaids, feed and accommodate them in a Harare hotel, buy power generators for a floodlit lakeside ceremony and invoke ancestral spirits to find the missing car. Some of the money was to be used to buy a bull whose genitals — described in court as the animal's "strong part" — would point out the car thief, prosecutors said.

All that was needed was the addition of a penis-melting Zionist robot comb, and it would have been a perfect trifecta of weirdness. (Thanks to Big Gary for the link.)
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 22, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Fraud
Korean investigators have uncovered a case of widespread degree fraud involving over 120 people who bought fake Russian music degrees from a woman "identified as Do":

Do advertised her institute as a Korean campus of the Russian university and the Russian college dean came here along with a couple of other Russian professors for about 10 days a year to provide lessons,'' said a prosecutor... Prosecutors said that the fake degree holders registered their degrees at the Korea Research Foundation (KRF) and some of them worked as lecturers at local universities, trying to create an academic clique.

This strikes me as odd as I would never have picked music as a field conducive to degree fraud, since other musicians would notice pretty quickly if you don't know what you're doing. Also, the idea that these fake degree holders were all colluding to create an academic clique is a bit bizarre. They must have figured there was strength in numbers.

The case also reminded me of the fake Moscow Philharmonic that was caught touring in Hong Kong back in 2000.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 20, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Beware of fakes
This is just pathetic:

Opportunists have tried to capitalise on the hysteria surrounding the Thames whale by putting a bogus watering-can up for sale on eBay, with a starting price tag of £1,924. The unidentified owner insisted the item was used in the attempted rescue of the 19ft northern bottle-nosed female whale to keep her moist and comfortable. But the fake sale outraged the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, who spent 36 hours and £100,000 trying to save the sea mammal's life and who were selling their own watering-can online.

Here's the real watering can for sale. Bidding is currently up to £99,701.25. (I hope that's not because of fake bids.)
Categories: Con Artists, eBay
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 25, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Scam
Here's an offer that has scam written all over it. The GTC Group (I'm kind of reluctant to link to their website, on the off chance that I'll help send a victim their way, but here it is) claims that if you agree to establish a trading account in their name (no money or fees required!), they will pay you, and 5000 other lucky volunteers, $24,000. They're circulating this claim via email. Here's how they explain the deal on their website:

Our client is a family trust with $1B to invest. We recently presented them with an investment opportunity to make a return of 18% without risk. Unfortunately, this opportunity involves the purchase of certain restricted financial instruments in the Asian markets. Due to regulation, the purchase of these instruments is restricted to $200,000 per person (or trust or any other entity). We are therefore unable to invest any more than $200,000 of our client's funds. We presented our client with a possible solution, to which they were agreeable. Our solution is very simple, as I'm sure you may have preempted already. We require 5,000 people who would like the opportunity to earn a share of the return WITHOUT any investment required. Once we reach this number, each person will have a trading account established in their name. Each account will be funded with $200,000. The trading cycle will then begin, which lasts for just over one month. At this stage, the profit will be split between our client and the participants. Of the 18% return our client will receive 5%.

You don't really need to read any further than "a return of 18% without risk" to know it's a scam. There's no way to make an 18% return on anything, let alone $1B, without risk. There's also the fact that they claim to be a billion-dollar trading outfit, but they can only afford a rinky-dink website. And we're expected to believe that some "family trust" is going to entrust them with $1B? Even though they claim no fees are required, I'm sure people who sign up will be asked to pay 'unanticipated fees' somewhere down the line. I'm also sure no one will ever see that $24,000. According to the registration info for the domain name, the GTC Group is run by some guy named George Davies out of Stanbrook House, 2-5 Old Bond Street, London. (Thanks to Harvey Wharfield for forwarding me the link to this thing.)
Categories: Con Artists, Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 17, 2006
Comments (23)
Status: Scam
According to the Arab News, the Nigerian bank scam has taken on a new twist. The scammers no longer tell you that they want to transfer $30 million into your bank account, or that you've won the European lottery. Now they inform you that you've been cursed, and you need to pay up to have the curse lifted. They bypass email and phone you directly to tell you this:

Abdul Rahman, sociology professor at Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University, said he received one of these calls from an Arabic speaker who informed him that he had been cursed by a colleague. The caller then claimed that he could neutralize the evil spell provided a specified sum of money was transferred to a bank account in Mali. The operator even claimed he would reveal the identity of the colleague if payment were sent.

Actually, I don't think Arab News is correct to identify this as an evolution of the Nigerian bank scam. I've definitely heard of fake curse scams before, though I can't find a link to another example.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 16, 2006
Comments (7)
Status: Stupid Criminals
A Colorado couple, realizing the police were onto their counterfeiting operation, tried to get rid of the incriminating evidence by flushing it all down the toilet. The results were predictable:

There's dirty money associated with crime, then there's dirty money. Investigators encountered the latter on Thursday, when they discovered a rental duplex that had flooded with sewage when the tenants flushed at least $10,000 in suspected counterfeit money down a toilet, crippling the duplex's plumbing system... By the time police arrived at the duplex Thursday, standing water and sewage covered its floors and the toilets weren't functional. Detectives said Marquez and Valdez had been relieving themselves in plastic shopping bags for at least a week because of the inoperable plumbing... Video of the duplex's plumbing shot by plumbers using a "snake camera" on Thursday showed hunks of suspected counterfeit bills packed into the pipes. The clogs span from just a few feet beyond the toilet to almost 100 feet along the lines. The volume of bills flushed down the toilet was so great that the money was visible when police and sheriff's deputies lifted a manhole cover on the street outside the duplex.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Sun Jan 08, 2006
Comments (3)
Status: Probably a Ponzi Scheme
Cranky Media Guy (aka Bob Pagani) noticed this story in the HawkEye about a job offer that sounds an awful lot like a Ponzi Scheme. Terrie Brown, who owns a limousine business in Burlington, Iowa, is offering to hire absolutely anyone at the rate of $25 an hour. Here's the part of her offer that sounds like a scam:

The hiring process includes filling out an application and then paying a $10 processing fee, according to Brown. Everyone who fills out an application and pays the $10 fee receives a time card and is hired on the spot, she said. In fact, she added, anyone willing to work who pays the processing fee will be earning $25 an hour. "Everyone is paid $25 an hour whether they work one hour or 40 ... and everyone will receive benefits," Brown said. The benefits include health, dental vision and life insurance for an undetermined fee.

So you pay her $10 to get hired, but I bet that only a very few people will actually be put to work and earn that $25/hour. Still, hundreds of people have been signing up for the job:

Since Tuesday, owner Terrie Brown has been inundated with hundreds of job applications from high school students to senior citizens. On Thursday, parking at the business on the corner of Roosevelt and Sunnyside avenues had to be directed due to high–traffic volume. "We had hundreds in here and we want hundreds more," Brown said. "As long as you are willing to work, we want you."

She's even giving people incentives to recruit other suckers to sign up for this job. The Burlington Police are aware of what she's doing, but won't comment on any investigation.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Sun Jan 08, 2006
Comments (2)
Status: Scam
According to legend, Plymouth Rock was the first thing the pilgrims set foot upon when they landed in Massachusetts. I think that the rock itself is now on display in Plymouth. But United Press International reports that pieces of the Rock are popping up on eBay where they're fetching as much as $900. The catch is that there's absolutely no way to verify that these really are pieces of the original Plymouth Rock. A lot of people did carve off chunks of Plymouth Rock during the 18th and 19th centuries, but there's no way to differentiate a real piece of Plymouth Rock from a fake piece.
Categories: Con Artists, eBay, History
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 28, 2005
Comments (13)
Status: Scary scam
An Indiana dentist has been charged with diagnosing patients with cavities that didn't exist. This is the kind of thing that feeds the popular paranoia about dentists:

The attorney general's office said Dunlap diagnosed three patients with cavities, but the patients sought second opinions and were found to be cavity-free. State officials said Dunlap diagnosed a child with 10 cavities in June, but another dentist found that the child did not have any cavities. A similar complaint was filed by a patient in May 2004, said Staci Schneider, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.

Personally, I've never had a cavity. But one time a dental assistant cleaning my teeth told me I had three or four cavities. Luckily the dentist who checked her work recognized that the 'cavities' were just grooves in my teeth.
Categories: Con Artists, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 10, 2005
Comments (44)
Surf Junky ( is a service that supposedly lets you earn money simply by browsing the web. The description on its site of how it works isn't very clear, to say the least, but from what I can gather they make you have a browser window constantly open that flashes ads at you... a new one approximately every thirty seconds. They claim that they'll pay you about $0.45 for every hour that they sense you're actively browsing the web with this ad window flashing at you. Of course, it hasn't taken people long to figure out that theoretically you could leave the surf junky window open all day and be earning money while you do other stuff (like sleep). The trick would be to have a program running such as a chat room that would fool the surf-junky browser into thinking you were using the computer. So does this trick work? Can you earn money just by having a browser running? And the larger question: will surf junky actually pay you, or is it all a scam?

The answer is that you're probably not going to make any money this way because it doesn't appear that Surf Junky is very good about paying anyone. At least, there are all kinds of complaints on the web about its non-payment. Apparently they have a habit of cancelling accounts that approach the $25 minimum payment threshold. If you sign up with them you also have to provide your email address and agree to have spam sent to you, so they're making money off you that way as well. All in all I'd say that Surf Junky isn't worth messing around with. There are plenty of easier ways to make a few bucks.
Categories: Con Artists, Websites
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 06, 2005
Comments (42)
Last week 100 million paper birds were airdropped in southern Thailand. The airdrop was supposed to be the Thai government's symbolic peace gesture towards the Muslim separatists who live there. Billionaire Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra personally signed one of the paper birds, promising that whoever found this autographed bird would win a university scholarship (sounds like he has ambitions to be a modern-day Willy Wonka). A few days later a young girl came forward saying that she had found the bird. Provincial authorities checked it out and said that it looked genuine. But alas, it now appears the bird was a hoax. Shinawatra has indicated that he might give her a free scholarship anyway. But nobody knows how many more hoax paper birds are floating around out there.
Categories: Con Artists, Places
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 15, 2004
Comments (9)
Thanks to Big Gary for forwarding me this next story. A conman made hundreds of dollars by convincing residents of an Ethiopian town that he could make money literally rain down upon them from the sky. At first I thought, who could be stupid enough to believe that? But then I realized it's basically no different from any of the get-rich-quick schemes popular here in America: trade your way to riches in the stock market, work at home and earn big bucks, take this seminar and learn the secrets of financial success, etc...
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 29, 2004
Comments (2)
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