Top 10 Greatest Scams Ever Pulled Off

Tags: #Ponzischeme ,   #AnnaDelvey ,   #Scam

Alex O'Brien

Alex O'Brien

Last updated:  2024-01-29 09:40:08

Scamming people for money is one of the oldest stories ever, as it surely beats bank robberies. Although it's a criminal act, we must take a bow for some scammers out there for their imagination and stunning performances. From our perspective, it looks almost impossible to fall for something like that but never say never because you can't really know who you'll run into. Some of the scams sound so absurd, yet they are real. So let's dig up in some master-mind scams in our top ten list!

10. Salting the Gold Mine

Back in the days, owning a gold mine was a dream for many people (Photo: Stevebidmead/

Once upon a time in the Wild West, there was a gold rush! This was a time when most hustlers made a lot of money. It was so easy to scam greedy people because everybody wanted to own a gold mine. The scam goes like this - a resourceful con man would purchase a worthless land, spread some gold pieces on it, or even load the shotgun with gold dust and shoot it to apply it all over. 

Afterward, he would find some suckers and sold them the land promising an immense fortune. However, after obtaining the parcel, new landlords would realize that they have been scammed, and by that time, the grifters would be long gone.

9. Anna Delvey AKA Anna Sorokin

Check up the scam that Anna Delvey pulled off in New York

OK, we don't want you to get the impression that all cons are done by men. Let's take a look at the newest con-woman who intrigued the public, young lady Miss Anna Delvey aka Anna Sorkin. Anna infiltrated New York's high society impersonating a rich heiress waiting to obtain her legacy. She stayed at hotels, threw parties, and basically spent money like crazy while never picking up the checks. 

The hotels, restaurants, and clubs have been the damaged parties in Anna's scams. She was also taking money from her "friends" among wealthy members of society. Moreover, she looked very well connected and gave the impression of the carefree person spoiled with money who just forgot to pay the bill, so nobody was suspicious. However, later on, all was revealed, and Anna ended up in jail.

8. Nigerian Fraud

Nigerian flag drawn on a brick wall
Nigerian scam has spread so widely that it grabbed the attention of authorities (Photo: David_Peterson/

You might have heard about this one or even received more than a couple of phishing emails. Nevertheless, the story goes like this. You obtain a message from a person (usually claiming to be royalty) who is about to inherit an enormous amount of money, offering you a great deal of it. Yet, all you need is to share the legal fee with your future beneficiary.

Moreover, you'll get the instructions to send your bank details, as they need to transfer your portion of the fortune. It seems ridiculous not to pay a small part of the legal fee and receive all that wealth afterward, isn't it? Nevertheless, the suckers shortly realized that they've been scammed, losing the legal fee money while never seeing the promised cash.

7. Email Scam

E-mail sent from devices
Email scams have so many variations, don't fall for one (Photo: ribkhan/

Scam number seven on our list has a lot of variation. One of them is the email with the following content: "We have found you the eligible heir of your very distanced cousin who was a billionaire or a millionaire." Or someone died, and the life insurance policy needs to be claimed. 

Therefore, you can see the pattern, as all you need is to pay some small legal fee. The scam is terrific because most victims don't report it since they feel foolish when they fall for something like that.

6. Elizabeth Holmes

A person holding a blood test sample
Getting your blood test results from a few drops sounds excellent. However, it's still impossible (Photo: shameersrk/

Young businesswoman Elizabeth Holmes founded a company called Theranos. This organization was allegedly developing a revolutionizing method of blood testing with a small number of samples like fingertip blood. The technique was so stunning that she, as a CEO of the company, found investors and became the youngest self-made billionaire on the Forbes list.

Moreover, Holmes has obtained the funds promising a revolution. However, all the company did was to fraud the investors, the doctors, and patients, as they used tech developed by other companies. Of course, the test done by the Theranos method was false. Holmes ended up facing the criminal charges along with her partner Ramesh Balwani.

5. Bernard Madoff

A statue of raging bull in the Wall Street, New York
There are many scams on Wall Street, but Bernard Madoff raised the game to a new level (Photo: TreptowerAlex /

Wall Street's financial guru improved the Ponzi scheme (look at number three on our list) and brought it up on a higher level. Bernard Madoff promised his investors to double or even triple their money by letting them invest their wealth. Nevertheless, he ended up scamming his victims for over $65 billion. 

To make it happen, he used the classic Ponzi scheme, making the first client profit from the next sucker who trusted him. However, the news about fast earnings spread rapidly, and he had more and more investors. Moreover, everything was going fine for Madoff, but in the end, the jig was up, and he ended up in jail.

4. Frank Abagnale, Jr.

Make sure to watch the movie "Catch Me If You Can," as it's based on Frank Abagnale Jr's biography

Famous con man Frank Abagnale Jr. was born in 1948, and by the time he was 15, he already did his first fraud. Moreover, this brilliant con-man has been scamming until the age of 22, when he was arrested. His life was so wild that the famous Hollywood movie with Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks was filmed after his autobiography "Catch Me If You Can." Therefore, watch the film, or read the book as it's quite interesting.  

Frank Abagnale Jr. was forging checks and withdrawing the money from his accounts that didn't exist. Moreover, he had a long run imposing a Pan Am pilot, flying with other companies to avoid getting caught. Therefore, Frank used a free hotel lodging as a pilot, and of course, cashed his paychecks. Later on, he pretends to be a medical consultant and an attorney. However, he did his best not to put anybody in danger. After he was caught, he served some time in jail and started to consult the FBI and the banks to prevent the check forgery and upgrade their security.

3. The Ponzi Scheme

Various postage stamps
Ponzi scheme was so brilliant that it's still used, even for marketing purposes (Photo: pasja1000 /

We all have heard about the Ponzi scheme. Basically, it's the pyramid system for conning the suckers that's very popular and still used by con-mans. Mr. Charles Ponzi was the inventor of the scam that later on was associated with his last name. Back in 1920, he tricked thousands of people into investing in the postage stamp. Ponzi had promised a 50% profit in 45 days, 100% in 90 days, and the first investors gained the commission. 

Moreover, he tricked people into giving him money, promising fast incomes, as using capital from the next suckers to pay up the previous ones. Hence, the con was perfect initially, but the money stopped coming, and he ended up in jail and broke.

2. Emmanuel Nwude

An airplane landing at night
You must be quite an accomplished con to collect the investments for the non-existing airport (Photo: DaniloBueno /

This one is almost a genius! Emmanuel Nwude managed to sell a non-existing airport for $242 million back in 1995! This was a well-planned scam of conning the Brazilian bank manager Nelson Sakaguchi to invest in a new, yet-to-be-built airport in the Nigerian city Abuja. Nwude had previous experience as a director of Union Bank, so he got the skills and knowledge to impersonate the Central Bank of Nigeria's Governor. Moreover, he had the help of four fellow con-men.

As the bait for sweetening the deal and conning the Brazilian bank manager, Nwude promised a commission of $10 million to the manager personally. Everything went well till 1998 when the scam was discovered before they were arrested in 2004. 

1. Selling of Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge in New York
Selling the Brooklyn Bridge could have been done only by someone with a brilliant mind (Photo: kokygonzalez/

In 1920 George C. Parker sold the Brooklyn Bridge twice a week for years (his words), making him one of the most successful con men ever. George C. Parker was a born New Yorker who set up some of the greatest scams. He created fake offices on Ellis Island before searching for his victims.

To explain the con, let's just say that there were tolls for the bridge crossing until the beginning of the 20th century. The new "owners" of the bridge have been so persuaded in Parker's con that the police often had trouble getting them and their tolls off it. George Parker has also sold the Metropolitan Museum, Statue of Liberty, and Grant's Tomb. Eventually, he was arrested and served a life sentence in Sing Sing.

As we've seen on our top ten, there are many scammers out there, as a lot of gullible people fall into some con. We have only scratched the surface since there's a lot to find out about the frauds. Moreover, the cons intrigue people so much that many of them are translated into Hollywood movies.

Have you ever come upon an email promising a great fortune? Was someone you know a part of some con? Please write to us in the comment section, as we would like to hear about your experiences with scams. 

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Jellyfish 101 Says:

And to think that people still fall for some of these...

August 01 at 09:45:02 AM

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