We all love a little practical joke or prank here, don’t we? But there’s a line you can cross… And these dudes went well beyond it! They’re the ten most daring and cunning liars, fakers, con artists and hoax merchants who ever drew breath. You’ll be staggered at some of their stories…
1. Victor Lustig – The Dude Who Sold The Eiffel Tower
As clever as it was simple, Lustig’s master con was the kind of plot that relies heavily on charisma, charm and top level acting. Luckily for Vic, he had all three in spades. The scrap metal dealers who he robbed suitcases full of cash from were so embarrassed that they didn’t even report what had happened initially. That’s right, ‘suitcases’. He sold the Eiffel Tower twice. Twisted genius.
2. Catch Him If You Can, It’s Frank Abagnale
If you’ve seen Steven Spielberg’s Leo DiCaprio-starring movie biopic of Abagnale’s life, you’ll know the story of a serial chancer. A forger and master deceiver, he donned many a disguised over many a year to collect a fortune that ran well into the millions. He was a one man crime wave and a conman extraordinaire.
3. Charles Ponzi – ‘The Ponzi Scheme Guy’
You know you’ve hit the Conman Hall of Fame when your very name is synonymous with confidence trickster crime. Ponzi invented the pyramid scheme which promises so much yet delivers so little. His invention was so pervasive, Ponzi schemes still run to this day. Obviously, the late Charles Ponzi doesn’t profit from them, but his name lives on.
4. The ‘French Rockerfeller’, Christopher Rocancourt
By claiming to be a French member of the Rockefeller family, as well as the son of Sophia Loren, Rocancourt was able to wangle himself into the elite, bagging model girlfriends and the life of a playboy. And by selling deeds to properties to which he wasn’t the owner, he was able to eventually back up his claims of wealth. Until it all came crashing down in 2006 when he received a lengthy prison sentence and a huge fine.
5. Gregor McGregor, The famous ‘Poyaisian’
So good at hoaxing they named him twice, McGregor made an absolute fortune by drawing huge amounts of cash by way of investment in a mineral-rich Central American country which, incredibly, he’d just made up! ‘Poyais’. Unbelievable!
6. Cassie Chadwick, ‘daughter’ of Andrew Carnegie
It’s thought Cassie Chadwick managed to steal a staggering $20m by playing financial markets whilst claiming to be the offspring of steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
7. Jack Of All Trades, Ferdinand Demara
Demara is the man of a thousand faces. He used to blag hundreds of identities and dozens of occupations including civil engineer, a sheriff’s deputy, an assistant prison warden, a doctor of applied psychology, a hospital orderly, a lawyer, a child-care expert, a Benedictine monk, a Trappist monk, an editor, a cancer researcher and a teacher. He even actually performed surgery despite not being qualified! Madness…
8. David Hampton’s Six Degrees of Separation
Hampton used to pretend to be the son of famous Hollywood actor Sidney Poitier in order to get things for free. His lies snowballed to such an extent that they even made a movie about him, with Will Smith playing the lead role.
9. ‘Princess Caraboo’, Mary Baker
In the early 19th Century, Baker would claimed to be an exotic foreigner from foreign climes who had washed ashore in Bristol, England after escaing a kidnapping by pirates. She kept up the charade as it found her fame and fortune. Until she was caught lying, that is…
10. Milli Vanilli Being Silli
In 1990, pop duo Milli Vanilli were big news. They even won a Grammy Award. Which they had to return. Why? After a technical hitch at the MTV Awards in Germany of that year revealed them to be miming, news emerged that the pair didn’t even sing on their album. Although, to be fair to the pair, their record company was behind the sham, so let’s blame Arista Records too, shall we?