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People Reveal The Biggest Scams In History

Scams have been around for ages. Many of us have been the victims of one or more. Some grifts though have stood the test of time, and have become legendary.

ljuby_63 asked Reddit: What was history's biggest scam?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.


This is kinda like buying a star. A genius scam, but utterly pointless.

Piggyland . It's not the biggest scam but my favorite. In Toronto in the 40-50s, a guy (I can't remember his name) came up with a great investment idea . He would sell people piglets but also charge extra, upfront, for their food, care etc. He would take care of their pig on his farm and when it was full grown, the investor would sell it for a nice profit. He sold thousands of piglets! People would even bring their kids up to the farm on the weekends to visit and the parents would be happy to see their investments growing. They weren't allowed in the barn but he had a nice meeting room set up where they could play with their pig. Then one day the owner took off to Germany with millions of investors dollars and was never heard from again. It turns out he only had a dozen or so pigs in different sizes. When people came to visit, they all saw the same few pigs .

20minuteworkoutfan

That's brilliant!

idkwntp

They grew up to be Trump supporters.

Scottish soldier Gregor MacGregor claimed he was made the leader of a country in Latin America which did not exist and then proceeded to earn himself a fortune by selling land and government bonds of said fictitious country to wealthy British and French investors. People got on ships and sailed there looking for land that didn't exist. There was a tribe that was like, "No, there's no colony here white folks." They actually had to be convinced that they had been lied to. Many died.

Hitaro9

"A French court tried MacGregor and three others for fraud in 1826 after he attempted a variation on the scheme there, but convicted only one of his associates. Acquitted, MacGregor attempted lesser Poyais schemes in London over the next decade. In 1838, he moved to Venezuela, where he was welcomed back as a hero. He died in Caracas in 1845, aged 58, and was buried with full military honours in Caracas Cathedral."

-a-y

Talk about fool's gold.

The Bre-X Mining Scandal.

A Canadian mining company claimed that they had found 200,000,000 troy ounces of gold (that would be worth 257 billion USD today) in Indonesia in 1993. At their height the company was valued on the NASDAQ stock market at 6.9 billion USD (adjusted to 2018 with inflation).

The geologist who reported the 200 million troy ounces of gold was shaving his wedding ring into the drill core samples and making it look like all of the cores had an incredible amount of gold in them.

Eventually in 1997, another big mining company that was looking to acquire Bre-X did some due diligence and found that not only did their drills not detect any gold, but that the gold flecks in Bre-X's drill samples were angled and sharp unlike flecks of gold that would be produced naturally. They concluded Bre-X were "salting" their samples.

Company got exposed as a fraud. The geologist who shaved his ring and made hundreds of millions off of selling stock reportedly "committed suicide" after he was found out. His reported method of suicide was jumping out of an Indonesian military helicopter and magically his hands, feet, and penis were surgically removed and the body was unrecognizable (yeah this guy definitely didn't pay off the Indonesian military to fake his own death). Lawsuits hit the company that went bankrupt almost overnight. The CEO fled to the Bahamas, had his house broken into by masked gunmen who threatened to shoot him unless he turned over the money he owed them. He apparently died of a "brain aneurysm" three weeks after the break-in.

There is a movie about it that came out in 2016 with Matthew McConaughey and now we have a lot more regulations and requirements for mining companies in Canada that want to be listed on stock exchanges and go public.

brandeninbc

and now we have a lot more regulations and requirements for mining companies in Canada that want to be listed on stock exchanges and go public.

The good news is that this ultimately made Canada the world leader in mining / gold mining. You will see a ton of companies headquartered / listed in Canada because of the strength of regulation, even though they have no operations in Canada.

sane_canucklehead

The OG email scammers.

The Spanish prisoner.

It started in the late 19th century as a scam where a con man would convince someone that he had a friend locked up in a Spanish prison, who knew the location of some buried treasure (or something similar). But to organise a jailbreak, bribe the guards, they needed some cash now, then they could all go share the treasure together.

Sound familiar? Because it's the ancestor of other forms of advanced fee fraud, otherwise known as Nigerian email scams, 419 scams, etc.

Nonions

I stand in awe.

There was a scammer who sold the Eiffel Tower. Twice.

francesconigri

Victor Lustig. He was also an amazing counterfeiter, and he ran another infamous scam called the Rumanian Money Box (or something similar).

That last one is a favorite of mine. He'd show people a box with a crank, turn the crank, and a perfect $100 bill would pop out. He'd explain that the bill was an undetectable counterfeit, that the machine could make one such bill every 6 hours (turn the crank before then and you'd break the box), and he'd sell them the machine for like 5k-10k.

On at least two occasions someone bought the box, turned the crank early, and then found Lustig again and begged for help fixing it.

fancyfrenchtoilet

Dude also scammed Al Capone.

BubblesTrailerPark

Basically from what I remember, Lustig claimed to Al Capone that he can easily obtain 100k$ if he had 50k investment, essentially doubling the money. Lustig said he only needs 45k$ more from Capone because he is already putting up 5k$ of his money. Al Capone knew that if Lustig scammed him he can easily kill him, so he gave him the 45k$ . A week later Lustig came back and told Capone that the deal fell apart, and he lost his investment. Al Capone was ready to kill him then and there, but Lustig gave him back his 45k$. Lustig said he only lost his investment, and Capones investment was secured. Capone felt bad for judging the man and gave him 5k$ that he "lost" as a gift. Little did he know that Lustig was after the 5k$ all along and the whole story was planned by Lustig from beginning.

This is what I remember from the story, the money amounts may differ etc.

Pandoraboxhelp

Oh yeah, big time.

Scientology, which I'm actually glad to see not having already been mentioned here yet as that's an indicator of it fading into rightful obscurity.

Moleman-NineThousand

Scientology is nuts. They literally have a paramilitary naval force. Wonder where the funding comes from!

freekz80

The worst pies in Chicago.

Surprised no one has mentioned H.H. Holmes! Creator of the haunted house as we know it. He would offer you a hotel room while you visit the Chicago World's Fair and when you get to your room he gasses you and throws your body down a chute to his basement. Then he would burn the meat off your skeleton in his acid pit so he could sell your skeleton to the nearby college! Probably the biggest scam I know of!

SexySalsaDancer

Man, haunted houses have changed since I was a kid.

Dr_Winston_O_Boogie

Ha, no.

Those "athletic" silicon bracelets a couple years ago that said they "improved your balance" or whatever.

CueEqualsMCAT

I remember a guy I went to school with who did a research project effectively exposing the bracelets as fraudulent, and was actually offered money by the bracelet company to not present his findings when it was selected for an inter-school science competition,

Akashd98

He made off with billions.

Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, the largest Ponzi scheme in world history, and the largest financial fraud in U.S. history

beerbellybegone

he largest financial fraud in U.S. history

You mean, the largest known financial fraud in U.S. history.

MannekenP

And for you office-dwellers...

Ink cartridges.

FinalFortune_

We use ink cartridges for the coupon printers at work. I realized that even when they say they're empty, you can shake it and hear the ink sloshing around inside.

I bring the "empty" ones home now and use the ink for art.

TinyCatCrafts

My dad usually buys the ink from China and refills the cartridges using a syringe. Our bathroom looks like a crime scene after he refills them.

Goodeyesniper98

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Here are a some people admitting strong opinions they no longer have, and what it took to change those views. Redditor u/segafarm asks:

What is the strongest opinion you once held but no longer hold, and what make you change your mind?

Jade-Colored Glasses

I used to think that being cynical/negative was realistic and somehow smarter than being positive. I've since realized that a "be prepared for the worst but expect the best" is far better. We can't control the outcome of anything in life. Being negative makes you miserable rather than protected from bad things happening.

nanaimo

Cant' Have A Conversation With A Parrot

I used to be a conspiracy theorist. Believed that 9/11 was committed by the US government and that we never landed on the moon.

Once I started looking outside of the echo chamber I was in and started looking at alternate explanations, theories and listening to different viewpoints I soon realized how ridiculous those notions were.

Not-A-Real-Subreddit

A Big, Mysterious Universe

I used to be a strict, hardline atheist. I was the kind of bastard that would bring the subject up for no reason, just to argue. I don't know what the hell my problem was. Now I feel like, the universe is big, I don't know what all might be out there, I don't really care. I live as if there is no afterlife, because that makes sense to me. But if you don't, and you believe in one, that's perfectly fine, and maybe you're right. Who knows?

CDC_

Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man

I used to believe anyone can be a successful artist if they just put the time and effort into it. There is no such thing as talent, only hard work.

What changed my mind: Art school. There were quite a few people that tried hard, but just weren't able to achieve professional level art.

berfica

You're Not Your Emotions

For the longest time, I thought my emotions were in a sense the most "real" part of me. I was always a very emotional person and I didn't make a real effort to control it as I thought it was a good thing, that I was just being honest with myself. Over time though, I started to become very depressed and the negative emotions just keep adding on and on. I thought "this is just how I am I guess". Unfortunately it started hurting other relationships I had, and everything changed when my girlfriend broke up with me. After a lot of reading I found that emotions are not who we are at all. They're just reactions and there's nothing that requires us to act on them or feed them. I'm learning to let it go through me instead of hanging on like I used to.

inca829

Don't Forget Big Willie Style

I used to think that hip hop was bland, repetitive, and all about clubbing and sh*t. Then one of my friends pointed me towards people like Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Nas and Run The Jewels, who all have great songs and clever lyrics, and I realized that Hip Hop is pretty great.

6quid

The A**holes Will Always Find A Way

I used to think that the catholic church was responsible for all of the hateful people in it. I gave people the chance to challenge my opinion and someone explained it very nicely to me. Basically, the hateful people use the church as an excuse, if you remove the church they will gladly find another excuse.

TianaLeFong

High Times

Giphy

I used to tell myself that I would never stop smoking weed, and that I'd be happy if my kids grew up to be pot smokers... Now I have a kid, don't smoke, and realize what an idiot I was when all I did was smoke all day. I could probably be in a much better position if I hadn't smoked all through college.

But I mean, I still think pot's okay... Just in moderation.

edgar__allan__bro

The Road Less Traveled

"All taxation is theft, man! I made my money without any help from public institutions or the infrastructure they support, I should be able to keep every last dime of it!"

Naturally that was when I was 18, living at home rent free, and working at Pizza Hut as a delivery driver who relied upon public roads for pretty much every cent I made.

ExtremelyLongButtock

All Those PSA's Didn't Do Much

The whole D.A.R.E anti-drugs. Yes crack and heroin is bad, but they over dramatized what happens when you do smaller drugs. Weed isn't even a gateway drug, alcohol is more of a gateway drug. When I saw weed for the first time I thought it was tobacco (This was after all the D.A.R.E training too). Letting the government teach you your morales and philosophy is a thing that sheep do. Don't be a sheep.

PlantTreesForToday

Where Would We Be Without The Kindness Of Strangers

I used to think people on welfare and state assistance just weren't trying hard enough. I grew up spoiled and entitled and it seemed like any kind of charity was a stigma.

Then, my husband became chronically ill, and the economy took a shit. My family has been close to homelessness more than once, and have relied on state insurance and assistance off and on throughout the past few years. There are definitely people out there who abuse the system, but some just get stuck in a horrible cycle of poverty.

I also work in a school that has a high number low income and refugee families. It has really opened my eyes to the struggles that some people face.

BuffyandtheHellcats

He's Still There For You, The Best He Can Be

I could go through life and could seek meaningful advice from my Dad who has always been there for me.

Now he has been reduced to a feeble condition, I am starting to understand I'm out there on my own, and even what he's sure of is suspect given his mental and physical facilities have been rapidly deteriorating in his late seventies. I feel horrible that I have noticed this long before he did - or at least admitted as much.

june606

Clear Your Mind

This was before I received an ADHD diagnosis. When my doctor referred me to an ADHD specialist, first of all I refused to believe him and was kind of slighted that he even suggested that I could possibly have ADHD.

I had a very strong opinion that if I get a diagnosis that I would refuse to take prescribed amphetamines because they are "bad" and "addictive" and that they would ruin my life.

Then I actually tried the prescription and it was like magic.

Xingua92

Going Through The Whole Spectrum

Used to be fairly open with my views on immigration policy. Then I worked for a while down near Corpus Christie doing immigration work. I'd say one out if every hundred people that came through our office was going to somebody who actually wanted to work and try to make a living here. So many people simply wanted to exist enough to get welfare. Many were young men who we would later defend against exportation as a result of their criminal activity. I began to despise the work of defending these men and wished they would be deported.

Now, I'm dating a foreign girl and we are in the legal immigration process. She has advanced degrees and skills, so that makes things a little easier. But it does make me resent people who just bypass the system. We can't bypass the system because I imagine my participation in immigration fraud could get me disbarred.

RogerDeanVenture



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