Review of Fifty Scams and Hoaxes

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 we will come 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.

“Author Martin Fone explores the psychology and methodology deployed by the scammers and shows what can happen when avarice preys on credulity and gullibility. The key characteristics he unearths amongst his despicable gallery of scammers includes; incredible claims, creative use of advertising, playing on people’s fears and aspirations, unscrupulous business practices and, when it all goes wrong as it often does, a propensity to flee the scene and leave others to pick up the pieces”.

It’s an easy book to read and is entertaining. We tend to think of scams as either the modern scourge of email, text and Internet scams or the large scale financial fraud such as Ponzi schemes but Martin Fone steers clear of the most well-known scams such as people selling Tower Bridge repeatedly, the South Sea bubble etc. and instead finds nuggets in the world of scams.

People have been scamming each other I suspect since humans began trading and Martin has found some very early examples of scams we think of as modern day.

Such as the 419 scams that we all get via email where the scammer offers a fortune but there is a catch and the victim ends up repeatedly paying small amounts until they realise there is no fortune to be had. Martin found examples of this scam from the days of the French Revolution where prison guards would get names of wealthy people across France and create stories of a servant and his master trying to escape Revolutionary France with a trunk of gold but needs the recipient to look after valuable items temporarily for him.  There are no items of course and the wealthy person is conned into handing over modest monies in return for the said fortune which doesn’t exist.

My favourite story in the book is of a diamond mine scam in the middle of the Alaskan Gold Rush. People already hunting for gold are a good target for further scams and many were tricked till a diamond expert realised the find of diamonds and gems in the same location was an impossibility.

An enjoyable read.

Martin Fone’s website is at

Martin Fone’s blog is at

You can buy the book at

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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