Fifty Scams and Hoaxes is a new book by Martin Fone and is described as a light-hearted investigation into some of the worst examples of financial skulduggery, medical quackery and ingenious hoaxing from history. Along the way he came across a Pope advocating a drink based on cocaine, a pill to avoid hangovers, a woman who gave birth to rabbits, the man who broke the bank twice and the first examples of insurance fraud and scam emails.
It’s an easy book to read and is entertaining.
One story that surprised the Fightback Ninja is an early version of the 419 scam, also known as the advance fee scam where the scammer offers a fortune in return for carrying out a simple task.
The fortune might be a lock box of gold left by a diplomat that only you can access, or it may be the legacy of a dead relative and you’re the next of kin supposedly or any one of hundreds of such stories.
There is no fortune of course and the scammer progressively gets the victim to make a series of small payments for customs clearance or security checks or any other reason until the victim realises it’s a scam and stops paying.
Eugene Francois Vidocq in revolutionary France late 18th century specialised in using prison guards to send letters to carefully chosen very wealthy people.
The letters claimed he and his master were intending to escape revolutionary France and had a casket containing 1600 francs in gold and diamonds. They had been attacked en route and ditched the casket but now they were safe and had sent a servant to collect the casket but he had ended up in jail.
So, if you (the recipient) could send the money to have the servant released then the fortune can be shared with you.
The story is quite long and convoluted to add authenticity and is cleverly designed to lure the unsuspecting victim into believing about the fortune. This long ago scam shares many features with the modern day advance fee scams based upon it.
Vidocq reckoned that 20% of the letters he sent out ended up with money in his pocket so he became a wealthy man before retiring from the scamming game. Modern day scammers need to send out millions of such messages to make any money from their fraudulent schemes.
Martin Fone’s blog is at https://martinfone.wordpress.com/
You can buy the book at www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/business/fifty-scams-and-hoaxes
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.