BACK TO Home Page 50 CONVERSATION TOPICS Frauds and Hoaxes

Stories you can use to start conversation or to add interest to speeches or presentations


Resources for Speakers - Anecdotes About Frauds, Fakes, Confidence Tricksters, and Hoaxes


Stories you can use to start conversation or to add interest to speeches or presentations


Fake Shoes

Ukraine market selling stylish designer shoes, but buyers found that after a couple of days they started to fall apart - investigators discovered that the shoes were intended to be worn by corpses at Syrian funerals

Fake Olive Oil

According to a new book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller, Italy produces 300,000 tonnes of olive oil a year. The country's domestic demand is 600,000 tonnes and it exports another 400,000 tonnes, leaving 700,000 tonnes of "Italian" oil that does not come from Italy.

Get A Flash Car Frauds

Scheme offering choice of a BMW, Porsche or Mercedes for a year. Promoted in a magazine called Big Boyz Toyz, supposedly asked for 300 drivers to road test cars for a year. Surprisingly, everyone who applied got a letter saying they were one of the chosen, and that the car would be dispatched in a month. But you had to pay a 75 pound delivery charge. And again surprisingly, the cars never turned up.

Special 3D Glasses Frauds

Darling Harbour Sydney has spectacular New Year fireworks displays. One year touts were offering special glasses so you could watch the fireworks "in 3D". Sadly they did a roaring trade.

First Class Lounge

A man bought a first-class ticket and used it to have free meals and drinks at the airport's VIP lounge almost every day for nearly a year. The itinerary for the ticket was found to have been changed more than 300 times within a year, and the owner of the ticket used it to enjoy the facilities at the airport's VIP lounge in Xi'an in Shaanxi, China.

Talk About Conmen

Michael Knight, a fraudster finally brought to court. A radio program asked his victims to suggest a job he could do to repay. The winner suggested "toilet cleaner". Radio station sent along an interviewer to see what Mr Knight thought of the suggestion. He waxed lyrical about how important toilet cleaners were to society blah blah, but had the wind taken out of his sails when the interviewer told him "She meant you'd be the brush!"

Early Designer Fakes

Designer frauds go back to the Vikings. Best Viking swords have makers name Ulberth in raised letters at hilt - but so do the crap ones. The high quality ones are made of crucible steel, which the Vikings bought from furnaces in Persia. These ones are found intact, usually in rivers. The fakes have three times as much carbon, showing they've been made by quenching: hardening the metal by plunging the red hot steel into cold water. This gives blade a sharp edge but also makes them brittle, so they shatter in first battle. Significantly, these swords are found in graves.

Fake Money

The British Royal Mint figures released in September last year suggested that 2 per cent of £1 coins - around 30 million in total - were fakes, but in January that figure was increased to 2.5 per cent. But Andy Brown, managing director at Willings, a company which tests coins collected at car parks and in vending machines, said the machines used by the Royal Mint to test for fakes were not accurate enough. He believes the figure could be closer to 5 per cent, meaning one in 20 coins are fake. "We carried out our own sample and withdrew £2,000 in pound coins from the bank and we found 3 per cent to 4 per cent were fakes." One way of spotting if a coin is a fake is to look at the edge. The lettering on a counterfeit coin is often indistinct or in the wrong typeface. Another method is to hold the coin so the Queen's head is upright. The pattern on the reverse side should also be upright.

Fake Parts

Some aircraft bolts cost $4000 each, so big temptation for counterfeits, all stamped "APPROVED", but unfortunately not approved by anyone who matters. If a Chinese airline wants bolts made out of titanium, it hires someone trustworthy to stand beside the guy machining them the whole time they are being made.

Not Cheating

A gang that used a laser to win £1 million at roulette at the Ritz in London in 2004 was allowed to keep the winnings after police decided that the members had not broken the law. They allegedly used a laser scanner linked to a computer to measure the speed of the ball and hence the numbers most likely to come up.

Online Dating Frauds

Victims of online dating fraud have lost £27 million to fraudsters posing as soulmates, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and Get Safe Online who say that on average victims hand over &10,000. More than 2,700 crimes were reported between November 2014 and October 2015 but the true figure may be higher as victims are often too embarrassed to come forward.

Parking Ticket Frauds

Guy issuing his own parking fine notices, complete with a stamped addressed envelope to post the money to

Tax Frauds

The U.S. Treasury Department's inspector general for tax matters revealed in January that IRS certified 331 prison inmates as registered "tax preparers" during a recent 12-month period, including 43 who were serving life sentences. None of the 43, and fewer than one-fourth of the total, disclosed that they were in prison. (The agency blamed a 2009 federal law intended to encourage online-filing of tax returns, noting that "tax preparer" registration can now be accomplished online by passing a 120-question test.) (USA Today reported in February 2011 that prisoners filing false or fraudulent tax returns scammed IRS for nearly $39 million in 2009.)

Rich Frauds

The Columbus, Ohio, school board accepted principal Kimberly Jones's resignation in May following revelations by the Columbus Dispatch that she, though earning $90,000 a year, swore on federal forms that she made just $25,000--so that her own two children would qualify for reduced-price school lunches.

Tech Frauds

In January 2010, shortly after News of the Weird's report, the UK government admitted that the British-made "magic wand" bomb-detector its own Department of Trade and Industry was promoting for export to police in Mexico and the Philippines was useless (no better than a Ouija board). Earlier, several British firms had sold thousands to Iraqi police at dollar-equivalents of $16,000-$60,000 (from a manufacturing cost of about $20 each). Furthermore, according to City of London police, "hundreds" of Iraqis had died in Baghdad after suicide bombers were mistakenly allowed into secure areas after being "cleared" by the wands.

Credit Card Frauds

Credit and debit cardholders are being told by banks to notify them of their holiday destinations and foreign travel plans or face having their accounts frozen in moves to combat fraud. Customers increasingly find that trying to make a transaction abroad triggers a shutdown of their account as card companies seek to curb the use of information stolen from British cards. Requests by banks for travel plans are intended to help them to decide whether to stop transactions at cash machines, shops and restaurants abroad or let them proceed.

When online, I always enter credit card details with the mouse on a virtual keyboard rather than type on my computer keyboard, for protection against keyloggers. A friend tells me I am wasting my time. Is he right? He is. A keylogger is malicious software that sits on your computer and records the keys you press, uploading the information to its maker over the internet. Those key presses could include credit card numbers and passwords its maker hopes to extract. But malware can also record the location of the pointer every time the mouse button is pressed - information that can be used to calculate which characters have been clicked on. It's the reason why some websites present you with a virtual keyboard with numbers and letters in random places, so that any logged mouse clicks will record the wrong characters.

Fake Handbags

China supplies some wonderful fakes - handbags and DVDs the most prominent (some of these being quite hilarious, particularly when someone stands up in front of the screen!) but also fake Marlboro cigarettes (complete with tax stamps) and Harry Potter books (why wait for JKR to get round to writing the next one)

Mammogram Conman

Spanish guy who convinced women that the government was supplying free mammograms via a satellite which passed overhead. All the women had to do was take off their tops and press their bare breasts against the front windows at the right time (I dunno - maybe he sold tickets?)


Insurance Frauds

Louis Vitton luggage is very popular - every year British travellers report lost more LV luggage than is actually sold in Britain

Nigerian Email Frauds

Like most Internet users, I have an investment advisor residing in Nigeria (I always run past him any email suggestions I get for investing in penny sure-to-rise stocks). But one of them has come up with a beauty! Apparently a Nigerian astronaut was launched on a secret mission in 1990, and they haven't brought him down. The accumulated flight pay is in the millions! But unfortunately it can't be claimed until he's on the ground .... and it will only take a mill to get him down. (Now wouldn't you like to participate?)

Fake Piss

Reports of the prominence of animal urine in various cultures' health regimens have surfaced periodically in News of the Weird, and in December, in Al Qunfudhah, Saudi Arabia, a shop selling camel urine (with a long history of alleged medicinal qualities) was closed by authorities after they found 70 camel-urine bottles actually filled with shopkeeper-urine.

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