Scams have been around for ages. Many of us have been the victims of one or more. Some grifts though have stood the test of time, and have become legendary.
ljuby_63 asked Reddit: What was history's biggest scam?
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.
This is kinda like buying a star. A genius scam, but utterly pointless.
Piggyland . It's not the biggest scam but my favorite. In Toronto in the 40-50s, a guy (I can't remember his name) came up with a great investment idea . He would sell people piglets but also charge extra, upfront, for their food, care etc. He would take care of their pig on his farm and when it was full grown, the investor would sell it for a nice profit. He sold thousands of piglets! People would even bring their kids up to the farm on the weekends to visit and the parents would be happy to see their investments growing. They weren't allowed in the barn but he had a nice meeting room set up where they could play with their pig. Then one day the owner took off to Germany with millions of investors dollars and was never heard from again. It turns out he only had a dozen or so pigs in different sizes. When people came to visit, they all saw the same few pigs .
They grew up to be Trump supporters.
Scottish soldier Gregor MacGregor claimed he was made the leader of a country in Latin America which did not exist and then proceeded to earn himself a fortune by selling land and government bonds of said fictitious country to wealthy British and French investors. People got on ships and sailed there looking for land that didn't exist. There was a tribe that was like, "No, there's no colony here white folks." They actually had to be convinced that they had been lied to. Many died.
"A French court tried MacGregor and three others for fraud in 1826 after he attempted a variation on the scheme there, but convicted only one of his associates. Acquitted, MacGregor attempted lesser Poyais schemes in London over the next decade. In 1838, he moved to Venezuela, where he was welcomed back as a hero. He died in Caracas in 1845, aged 58, and was buried with full military honours in Caracas Cathedral."
Talk about fool's gold.
The Bre-X Mining Scandal.
A Canadian mining company claimed that they had found 200,000,000 troy ounces of gold (that would be worth 257 billion USD today) in Indonesia in 1993. At their height the company was valued on the NASDAQ stock market at 6.9 billion USD (adjusted to 2018 with inflation).
The geologist who reported the 200 million troy ounces of gold was shaving his wedding ring into the drill core samples and making it look like all of the cores had an incredible amount of gold in them.
Eventually in 1997, another big mining company that was looking to acquire Bre-X did some due diligence and found that not only did their drills not detect any gold, but that the gold flecks in Bre-X's drill samples were angled and sharp unlike flecks of gold that would be produced naturally. They concluded Bre-X were "salting" their samples.
Company got exposed as a fraud. The geologist who shaved his ring and made hundreds of millions off of selling stock reportedly "committed suicide" after he was found out. His reported method of suicide was jumping out of an Indonesian military helicopter and magically his hands, feet, and penis were surgically removed and the body was unrecognizable (yeah this guy definitely didn't pay off the Indonesian military to fake his own death). Lawsuits hit the company that went bankrupt almost overnight. The CEO fled to the Bahamas, had his house broken into by masked gunmen who threatened to shoot him unless he turned over the money he owed them. He apparently died of a "brain aneurysm" three weeks after the break-in.
There is a movie about it that came out in 2016 with Matthew McConaughey and now we have a lot more regulations and requirements for mining companies in Canada that want to be listed on stock exchanges and go public.
and now we have a lot more regulations and requirements for mining companies in Canada that want to be listed on stock exchanges and go public.
The good news is that this ultimately made Canada the world leader in mining / gold mining. You will see a ton of companies headquartered / listed in Canada because of the strength of regulation, even though they have no operations in Canada.
The OG email scammers.
The Spanish prisoner.
It started in the late 19th century as a scam where a con man would convince someone that he had a friend locked up in a Spanish prison, who knew the location of some buried treasure (or something similar). But to organise a jailbreak, bribe the guards, they needed some cash now, then they could all go share the treasure together.
Sound familiar? Because it's the ancestor of other forms of advanced fee fraud, otherwise known as Nigerian email scams, 419 scams, etc.
I stand in awe.
There was a scammer who sold the Eiffel Tower. Twice.
Victor Lustig. He was also an amazing counterfeiter, and he ran another infamous scam called the Rumanian Money Box (or something similar).
That last one is a favorite of mine. He'd show people a box with a crank, turn the crank, and a perfect $100 bill would pop out. He'd explain that the bill was an undetectable counterfeit, that the machine could make one such bill every 6 hours (turn the crank before then and you'd break the box), and he'd sell them the machine for like 5k-10k.
On at least two occasions someone bought the box, turned the crank early, and then found Lustig again and begged for help fixing it.
Dude also scammed Al Capone.
Basically from what I remember, Lustig claimed to Al Capone that he can easily obtain 100k$ if he had 50k investment, essentially doubling the money. Lustig said he only needs 45k$ more from Capone because he is already putting up 5k$ of his money. Al Capone knew that if Lustig scammed him he can easily kill him, so he gave him the 45k$ . A week later Lustig came back and told Capone that the deal fell apart, and he lost his investment. Al Capone was ready to kill him then and there, but Lustig gave him back his 45k$. Lustig said he only lost his investment, and Capones investment was secured. Capone felt bad for judging the man and gave him 5k$ that he "lost" as a gift. Little did he know that Lustig was after the 5k$ all along and the whole story was planned by Lustig from beginning.
This is what I remember from the story, the money amounts may differ etc.
Oh yeah, big time.
Scientology, which I'm actually glad to see not having already been mentioned here yet as that's an indicator of it fading into rightful obscurity.
Scientology is nuts. They literally have a paramilitary naval force. Wonder where the funding comes from!
The worst pies in Chicago.
Surprised no one has mentioned H.H. Holmes! Creator of the haunted house as we know it. He would offer you a hotel room while you visit the Chicago World's Fair and when you get to your room he gasses you and throws your body down a chute to his basement. Then he would burn the meat off your skeleton in his acid pit so he could sell your skeleton to the nearby college! Probably the biggest scam I know of!
Man, haunted houses have changed since I was a kid.
Those "athletic" silicon bracelets a couple years ago that said they "improved your balance" or whatever.
I remember a guy I went to school with who did a research project effectively exposing the bracelets as fraudulent, and was actually offered money by the bracelet company to not present his findings when it was selected for an inter-school science competition,
He made off with billions.
Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, the largest Ponzi scheme in world history, and the largest financial fraud in U.S. history
he largest financial fraud in U.S. history
You mean, the largest known financial fraud in U.S. history.
And for you office-dwellers...
We use ink cartridges for the coupon printers at work. I realized that even when they say they're empty, you can shake it and hear the ink sloshing around inside.
I bring the "empty" ones home now and use the ink for art.
My dad usually buys the ink from China and refills the cartridges using a syringe. Our bathroom looks like a crime scene after he refills them.
I love characters I love to hate.
Even when I hate them I can always find the reason they're involved in the story, so I find it difficult to want them to be erased.
Certain characters flaws and the most heinous decisions are written to further story and bolster the audience's love for the heroes.
So as much as we loathe them, we need them; much like our enemies in real life. That is what makes compelling drama.
Redditor u/nekoandCJ wanted to spill the tea on the characters we could do without in our favorite stories by asking:
People of reddit, what fictional character do you hate with a passion?
The list is long for me. It all starts with the guy who shot Bambi's mom. Lord, to this day that is still traumatizing. But she had to go to give Bambi a story. And Michael Douglas's character in "Fatal Attraction," what a putz. He got what he deserved. But how else would we be able to sympathize with Glenn Close? Even though... well y'all get it.
Family FailHome Alone Christmas GIF by FreeformGiphy
"Kevin McCallister's uncle… "look what you did you little JERK!"
"Percy from the green mile, that freak can DIE IN THE MENTAL WARD!!"
"That was what was so good, there is a Percy in every large group and more that one in any team where failure isn't punished, like a government job working at a prison. He was a great comment on humanity."
Love Sharon Though
"Ginger from Casino."
"Major kudos to Sharon Stone, her performance made me utterly loathe that character. She was a manipulative junkie who tied her young daughter to a bed so she could go out to score. I wanted to reach through the screen and choke her."
"Loathe the character, but that performance is absolutely god-tier. Helluva an acting job. Her and Pesci just freaking nail it to the stratosphere, playing thoroughly unlikeable characters in the absolute most realistic way. Ginger is the holistic ideal of the gold-digging party girl. And Pesci is that moron Dunning-Kruger guy we all know."
"Manny from Diary of a Wimpy kid I think there's a while subreddit about that little monster."
Call a Doctor!Giphy
"Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. My favorite antagonist ever. Louise Fletcher was perfectly cast for the role, too."
Ohhhh... good choices thus far. Although, I found Sarah Paulson's Ratched more detestable. You know who else is a mess? Elmira Gulch. Love the Wicked Witch. Hate Elmira! Go figure...
True Evilthe sopranos hbo GIFGiphy
"Livia Soprano made my blood pressure rise every time she was on screen. Great acting. Mission accomplished."
"I will say, I've seen Comic-Con panels with him and his smarta** sense of humor fit Micah perfectly. He may have hated the character, but boy oh boy was he a fantastic casting choice. As were all the main cast, for that matter."
All the Drama
"When I tell you I stood up and cheered when I originally saw Heather from Total Drama Island finally get booted out of the competition. 'Twas a good day."
"Season 1 I HATED her and loved when she lost her hair. But then it was more of a love-hate relationship with her. She's a fun character. Owen, now that monster I hate. Loved him season 1, but then he just got reduced to fat guy who farts and contributes nothing."
"Craig from Malcolm in the Middle. He's a selfish, annoying coward. Like the episode where he's injured and he makes Lois drive all over town to different restaurants for him. I love when the helper monkey turns on him, that's what he gets for treating it like crap. I especially hate the episode where Hal asks Craig to help him buy a comic book for Malcolm."
"And Craig also makes Hal drive him all over town for different meals and treats and gifts, then when Hal dares to ask when they're actually going to the comic book store Craig flips out and demands to be let out of the car and says he won't help Hal anymore. Like come the hell on, I just want to slap him."
"Do you need a cough drop, Dolores?!"
"I loved Umbridge for the simple fact that she brought out McGonagall's savagery like no one else, and it was glorious."
"Voldemort is just another generic, pointlessly evil type of character that only seems to exist in fiction. Umbridge is the type of tight @ssed bureaucrat that mimics the actual villain in many average people's real lives."
This thread could be endless. So many villains and loathesome characters so little time. But Lord the drama is good!
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Everyone has their own little quirks.
What's the weirdest thing you find attractive?
Perhaps the thing you find the most attractive is completely unnoticeable to the average person. As in, if you weren't looking for this one tiny, small, completely negligible thing, you would never notice it.
But these people did.
Whip It Back And Forth
"My wife had shoulder length hair for a while. Once, when I called her name and she did the hair-swish-smile thing, I just about f-cking died from cuteness."
Little Stragglies Of Cuteness
"The neck, when a woman has her hair up and those little bits of hair curl around."
"Seeing a girl have to stand on her tiptoes to do basically anything, especially to hug or kiss me.
I think it's the cutest thing ever"
Then there are those people who find things attractive that, on first viewing, someone else wouldn't see as "Wow, that's a real turn on!" However, you have refined and cultured taste. Of course you'll love it when someone's bones stick out a little bit.
"Collarbones. Can't even explain it. Just a shirt low enough to show a pronounced collarbone."
"Omgyes! Protruding collarbones and (at least imo) hipbones are crazy hot! It doesn't have to do with them being skinny though! Slightly curvy people can also have really nice defined collar- and hipbones!"
Controlling A Massive Machine
"My husband reversing the car. He puts his arm around the passenger seat and looks over his shoulder...."
"Oh, man, I love watching people drive. The arm-around-the-passenger-seat-while-reversing thing for sure, but also just people driving in general. There's just something about that focus people get when they're behind the wheel; the way their expressions are usually passive, but their eyes are attentive... oh man. I'm with you on this one for sure."
Someone Has A Thing For "Teen Wolf"
"Long canines. The teeth, not the species.
Not unnaturally long like vampire fangs, but just enough that they're longer than the rest of the teeth."
"Huh, weirdest compliment I've gotten from a guy before was that he liked my 'pointy teeth.' This was at a bar and it made my coworker do a double take."
Then there's these, which you may not have known did it for you, but after reading these there's no going back. You're hooked, now, and that's okay. Embrace the weirdness.
I See You Are Also An Individual Of Class And Substance
"Chokers, f-ck those things stir up something primal in me"
"Ah I see you also grew up in the 90s and watched buffy the vampire slayer..."
Wait, That Seems Pretty Obvi-Oh, That's Why...
"Guys who wear glasses.
For some reason I think it's sexy when we're making out and he has to take them off."
Seems Like You Like Everything They Do. Which Is Great.
"I like when women have to go pee really bad and do that dance. Yea it's weird.
Or when you successfully feed your girlfriend at the appropriate time of day and she does a little dance or starts humming a song as she's chewing.
I like watching the daily skin care routine as they furiously and rapidly circulate their little raccoon sized hands in various nonsense that I'll never understand"
Everyone is different. Everyone has different tastes. Everyone has things that speak to them. These are all perfectly acceptable, and steering into them might actually help you along as you continue your search for a viable romantic partner. Don't shy away from the things you find sexy. Embrace them. Be happy.
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When we're kids, we expect the adults in our lives to notice everything, know everything, and maintain a just, sound moral order.
Psh, don't hold your breath.
Whether it's a teacher, the parent supervising a playdate, or mom and dad at home, kids expect them to have eyes on the back of their heads.
That way, when a kid gets into a spat with a peer, has something stolen, or feels a quiet emotion, the adult in the room will respond with full knowledge of all the facts at play.
But adults are just human beings with a limited bandwidth in their heads. Half the time they're doing other things when the incident goes down.
So they weigh in as best as they can with the limited info they receive--usually in the form of two screaming children pointing at one another.
Curious to learn about the times when the adult got it wrong, Redditor Butterat_Zool asked:
"What minor injustice was wrought upon you as a child that you're still salty about today?"
Many people talked about times when a prized possession was stolen, destroyed, or squandered. Sure, things are just things.
But to kids they mean a whole lot.
Covering Her Tracks
"We had a special arts and crafts week when I was about six, maybe younger. I made my dad a Christmas stocking out of clay, because I'd always thought it was unjust that he didn't have one. It was going to be my Christmas presents to him."
"I took it to the teacher to show her, and so it could be fired later. She methodically destroyed it by balling it up in her hands, and then tried to put it down to a brain fart. I was shocked, but mostly I wanted a replacement stocking, since it was meant to be a gift. I asked her to remake it for me, since she, a teacher, would be allowed to use the clay any time, but I only had a few minutes left."
"The next day I was told I'd been bad and I wasn't allowed to participate in the arts and crafts week any more, and that was that."
No Help From Pa
"When I was 4 I had a little red rocking horse necklace. It was my favourite. I wore it to a puppet show my dad took me to one day and took it off and put it beside me."
"The kid next to me picked it up and wouldn't give it back. We fought."
"My dad told her dad he didn't recognize the necklace and let her take it. I'm 45 and still salty."
In-School Pawn Shop
"Teacher took my 2ft long pencil and sold it to another student."
"Yup. A few teachers at that school sold supplies like pencils to students. It just so happened that this one was taken from me because it was 'too distracting' "
All Them Nintendos
"When I was younger I wanted a Sega Dreamcast. My parents wouldn't just buy it for me, since 'I already had enough Nintendos.' I got a job at Hollywood Video. I couldn't even drive yet, so I would ride my BMX to work in my tuxedo uniform."
"When I saved enough money, I told my parents I was going to buy it myself. They told me no. When I asked why, they said it was to teach me that I can't always get what I want, even if I can afford it."
"I bought one anyway and successfully hid it from them. Every night when I went to 'bed,' I'd hook up the Dreamcast and play as quietly as possible. I still give them sh** for that decision, but they stand by it."
Other people fixated on the times an adult embarrassed them in front of multiple people. Of all the examples given, these are enough to make you really worry about some of the people watching kids out there.
"We were on a field trip to some Washington forest and the ranger started asking about products that grow in or are made from forests."
"3rd grade me who had just discovered in some Ranger Rick article that latex rubber comes from tree trunks confidently raised my hand to share."
" 'Uh rubber from trees, now that doesn't sound right does it' and she moved onto another. 35 years later and the salt is still there."
"In 4th grade our teacher told us to write a paper about what we thought of our school, now our school wasn't great and I was homeschooled up until that year and struggling with the change so wrote about my frustrations and how I was generally unhappy with it..."
"...and she insulted me in front of everybody until the point that I cried and then told me I should get up and read the paper to the class, I refused and she made me rewrite that paper until it was positive, you know instead of trying too help me with the problems I had"
Don't Cross a Paleo Nerd
"I was failed on an essay in English class because my interpretation was incorrect. The poet was describing an airplane and they asked us to figure how what it was being interpreted or anthropomorphized as."
"I was a paleo nerd and chose a pterosaur, because the author described the engines as screeching, and heaving, wings outstretched but still, etc. This was in 6th grade and in my essay I wrote 'and pterosaurs weren't like modern birds, they certainly didn't chirp!' "
"The teacher specifically read my essay out loud to the class as an example of something bad and wrong and 'incorrect.' She also didn't know what a pterosaur was or how you say pterodactyl. Big Salt could mine me until the sun explodes."
And finally, others shared the times they found themselves doing the wrong thing, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The adult only saw a snippet of a much broader context of behavior.
And the minimal knowledge led them to punish exactly the wrong person.
"Someone's phone went off in class, so teacher demanded that person turn their phone it. No one budges. She holds us in class for a good 20 minutes into the next period antagonizing us about this phone that rung. Eventually she let us go and warned all other teachers about this phone incident."
"My 8th period teacher then gets involved and antagonizes us all again. Said he was gonna stand out in the hall and whoever knows anything to report to him. Some kid went out there and said it was my phone. I got yelled at, got written up for Saturday detention, and later that year found out the kid who told on me was the one who's phone rung in class."
The One Time
"In kindergarten, we sat on this foam mat made out of large puzzle pieces, and we were all assigned one. My puzzle neighbor, Tommy, threw his garbage onto my square. Every time I pushed it off, he'd put it back."
"I eventually got mad and told him to knock it off, and the teacher noticed and yelled at me for throwing garbage into his square. I sat out for the rest of the day and my pin was brought down to 'bad day'. I accidentally broke his nose on the metal spider a few weeks after during tag, though."
Pulled In to the Chatter Hole
"Once a week, in kindergarten, they would pick a name of a kid who would win a toy. Only good kids could participate."
"I was alway a good kid, but not really lucky. My name got picked only once in the whole year. That day, unfortunately for me, I was next to a kid who would not shut up during the lesson. I spoke once to ask him to please stop talking. Guess who the teacher chose to punish for disturbing the lesson? That's right. Me. Didn't get my toy."
Until some kind of horrifying technology comes out that allows adults to see and know every facet of their child's existence, tiny injustices like this will proliferate.
But perhaps those couple slights are totally worth the freedom of adults that don't know everything we're up to.
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Modern medicine is a marvel. It's the reason why we've been able to effectively eradicate some serious diseases and improve the quality of health care around the world. When you take these two things into consideration, it's easy to see why vaccine hesitancy can be such a frustrating topic for people right now.
Many people would not be able to survive without the benefits of modern medicine. That's what we learned after Redditor forevernostalgic23 asked the online community,
"If modern medicine didn't exist what medical condition would have died from or been severely impacted by?"
"Bad vision alone would have made me terrible at most things."
I had bad vision until my early 20s. I second this.
"I would have had a very short life..."
"I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age seven. I would have had a very short life without modern medicine."
Having known many people who live with diabetes, I am glad that they are still here.
"I probably would have died..."
"I probably would have died at 6 years old from strep throat."
This is a big one: In the past, it commonly killed many people. And guess what, it still does? The CDC estimates approximately 11,000 to 24,000 cases of invasive group A strep disease occur each year in the United States, with 1,200 to 1,900 of those cases resulting in death.
"I was born..."
"I was born with a bilateral abdominal hernia and amniotic fluid in my lungs, no way I would have survived infancy without modern medicine."
"My brother and I..."
My brother and I were bitten by a rabid farm kitten when we were 6 and 4 years old. Without the foresight of my grandfather who had the cat tested and modern medicine creating the vaccine, my parents would be childless."
Frightening! I saw Cujo as a child and that told me all I needed to know about rabies, thank you very much.
"I would have gone deaf..."
"I would have gone deaf from recurrent ear infections as a child and then died at 14 from pneumonia."
"But since that..."
"I was born two months premature, so I'd likely not survive that in an earlier era. But since that, nothing."
"Mom and Dad..."
"The way I was born. Mom and Dad had to feed me through a tube down my nose the first year and a half."
"If the recurrent..."
"If the recurrent tonsillitis didn't get me, my appendix would have been the end of me as a teen."
"Neither kiddo nor I..."
"Giving birth. Neither kiddo nor I would be alive without emergency surgery."
Amazing, right? Be grateful for modern medicine––there are new developments each and every day. And who knows what the future has in store for us? Will there be a cure for cancer? Alzheimer's disease and dementia? The sky's the limit.
Have some stories of your own? Feel free to tell us about them in the comments section below!