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Con Artists
I saw the movie Bad Santa last week and loved it. Now here's a case of a real-life bad santa who's scamming businesses in Mississippi by pretending to be collecting money for charity.
Categories: Con Artists, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 09, 2003
Comments (0)
Just when we had all gotten used to those Nigerian email scams that fill up our inboxes every day, the Nigerian criminal class has gone back to the drawing board and come up with an entirely new way to con people out of money: it's the Nigerian Navy Recruitment Scam. Nigerian fraud artists are circulating fake documents that appear to be recruitment forms for the Nigerian Navy. I'm at a loss to see how exactly they make money out of this, but I'm sure they have a way. Meanwhile, the real Nigerian navy has announced that it will begin circulating real recruitment forms sometime this month.
Categories: Con Artists, Email Hoaxes, Military
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 08, 2003
Comments (47)
A modern-day 'Catch Me If You Can' criminal is on the run in Australia. He cons women out of money by posing as a pilot. Except that Frank Abagnale was a teenager when he posed as a pilot, whereas this guy is in his 30s.
Categories: Con Artists, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 14, 2003
Comments (0)
Here's a pretty outrageous con. A convicted drug dealer has been caught posing as a lawyer and operating a Central Florida law firm while still in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Evidently he only has to spend the night in jail, but every morning he wakes up, hops into his Mercedes, and drives off to his day job as a fake lawyer, from which he's been raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars. I wonder if he'll act as his own lawyer at his trial.
Categories: Con Artists, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 13, 2003
Comments (0)
While I was gone, George Clooney apparently got conned by a woman who told him that her daughter, Cindy, had cancer. When Clooney offered to visit, he got a call from the mother telling him that Cindy had died. Evidently Cindy had never existed. She was just a ploy on the woman's part to get Clooney's attention. Somewhat parallel to the Kaycee Nicole Simpson case.
Categories: Celebrities, Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Sat Oct 18, 2003
Comments (0)
One car crashes. Nineteen people claim they were passengers in it. Police suspect something is up. What happens when people fake their own car crash. And in other auto-fraud news, 47 people arrested in an auto-insurance scam.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 30, 2003
Comments (0)
Schoolchildren in Gloucester, England were fooled by a hoax, versions of which have been around for decades. They received an email message telling them that if they collected 3 kilograms of empty Walker chips packages, then Walker Chips would pay for the treatment of a child born without an arm. The kids collected all the packages of chips, only to learn that Walker Chips had never made such an offer. Like I said, versions of this hoax have happened many times before. They often involve the collection of bottle caps, empty boxes of matches, or other junk, all, so it is said, to support some good cause. Curtis MacDougall, in his classic study of hoaxes, records an example of this cruel practical joke occurring in the 1930s. I'm surprised that the school administrators in Gloucester weren't clued into this scam.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 24, 2003
Comments (0)
bush bills This story has been getting quite a lot of attention. On Sep. 6, 2003 a man paid for $150 in groceries at a Food Lion in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina with a phony $200 bill bearing George W. Bush's portrait. The bill showed a white house with signs on its lawn reading 'we like ice cream' and 'USA deserves a tax cut.' The cashier accepted the bill and gave $50 change. The Smoking Gun was able to actually get a picture of the $200 bill used in the transaction.

What most people don't remember is that this scam is hardly new. Two years ago, on January 28, 2001 a drive-thru customer at a Danville, Kentucky Dairy Queen paid for his $2.12 purchase with $200. That $200 was handed to the cashier in the form of a single $200 bill bearing on the front the likeness of George Bush and a treasury seal marked "The right to bear arms." The back of the bill showed an oil well and the White House lawn decorated with signs. The signs read "U.S. deserves a tax cut," "No more scandals," and "We like broccoli." The cashier accepted the bill and gave the customer $197.88 in change. The customer quickly drove off. Speaking later in her defense, the cashier explained that she had believed the $200 bill to be legitimate because it was green, just like real money.

Update: A visitor pointed out that the link to the Smoking Gun (now removed) no longer goes to the Bush Bills story. In fact, I couldn't find the story on their site any more [wait... here it is in their archive section], but luckily the picture of the Bush Bills was stored in Google's cache. Here it is. And one more thing. I realized that the bills used in the recent incident (Sep. 6, 2003) sound identical to the ones used in the Jan. 28, 2001 incident. Actually, they don't just sound identical, they are identical. So the two events must be related. I wonder if the police realize there was an earlier incident in a different state?
Categories: Con Artists, Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 15, 2003
Comments (3)
I've mentioned Larry Adams's book before, Fraud in Other Words, but I was reading through it again tonight and thought it deserved another mention. The book is an exploration of the language of fraud. Adams has collected together all the jargon and terminology of the culture of fraud, and as you flip through the book you come across one devious scam and ploy after another. For instance, I've always thought it was annoying how those subscription cards fall out of magazines when I'm reading them. I never realized that the cards are designed to fall out. They're called 'Drop Outs.' According to Adams:
If the recipient has to bend over and pick up a card, they are more likely to read it. A drop out is a commonly used gimmick used to attract curiosity in fraudulent and legitimate mail advertising.
Some other definitions:
Suck the Mop: To be left sucking the mop is to be left helpless and hopeless. The victim of any trick. To be left at a complete disadvantage.
Joe Soap: A foolish or a gullible person.

You can read more about Larry's book (and order a copy) at his website.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Sat Sep 06, 2003
Comments (0)
An accountant fakes cancer in order to avoid a five-month prison term. Gets found out, and is now looking at the possibility of a 50-year term instead.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Sat Sep 06, 2003
Comments (0)
Scam Alert! A company is sending out spam directing people to a website ( that sells genuine Holy Water from Lourdes. They boast that it's a miracle cure. "Holy Water can save you where medicine failed!" they proclaim. And it's yours for only $39.95. I'm tempted to believe that if you pony up $39.95 they really will send you genuine holy water from Lourdes. That's not the scam. The scam is that you can head on over to and buy the same stuff for less than half the price. So this company is tricking people into paying them $39.95 for a product that they then order elsewhere on the web for only $15. That's a nice scam and a quick way to pocket $25. I was curious who the website was registered to and checked it out on Turns out it's registered to some guy named Mike Richardson who lives in Atlanta, Georgia and works for a company called that sells teeth-whitening products. That's an odd combination of products: teeth-whiteners and Holy Water. Maybe you can gargle with their overpriced Holy Water after brightening your smile. Thanks to Philip Richmond for giving me a heads up about this holy water scam.
Categories: Con Artists, Religion
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 04, 2003
Comments (2)
I'm incredibly depressed. Sucker Day has been cancelled this year. That's like cancelling Christmas (well, not quite, but almost). In case you don't know about it, Sucker Day is a celebration held every year in the small town of Wetumka, Oklahoma, usually in the late summer. It commemorates the day in 1950 when the entire town was suckered by the con man J. Bam Morrison. Morrison arrived in town claiming to be the advanceman for a circus that would be arriving on July 24. People would be coming from miles around to attend this circus, he promised, presenting Wetumka merchants with a potential chance to make lots of money. He claimed that if the merchants bought advertising space on the circus grounds, the circus, in return, would buy their supplies exclusively from Wetumka merchants. And he assured everyone that there would be a huge amount of supplies being purchased. Pretty soon all the advertising space was sold (cash paid directly to Morrison, of course), and then, (surprise, surprise) Morrison split town. July 24 arrived without any circus. So the residents of Wetumka, realizing they'd been taken for a ride, decided to hold their own celebration anyway, with a parade and street fair. Thus the tradition of Sucker Day was born, held every year since, until now. I called up the Wetumka Chamber of Commerce to ask why they cancelled it, and the man on the phone said it was due to a lack of sponsorship. But he promised that they'll be holding it again next year, though they're probably going to move it to the early summer. For more info about Sucker Day, check out this Sucker Day Song. Plus, here's the schedule from last year's Sucker Day, as well as a newspaper article about the day (evidently prepared before they cancelled it). If you feel like celebrating your own Sucker Day (perhaps you got suckered somehow this year... lost a bunch of money on a sure-thing investment, or realized your girlfriend/boyfriend was cheating on you), then July 25, this Friday, would be close to the historical anniversary. An appropriate form of celebration would be to drink yourself into a pleasant state of numbness as you dwell on what a sucker you are.
Categories: Con Artists, Places
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 23, 2003
Comments (1)
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