Hoaxes vs. Scams

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ADHD Investing

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks

Top 2009 Resolution: Don’t Be Stupid
by Daniel Henninger
Wall Street Journal
January 8, 2008

Bernard Madoff revealed our thoughtless ways.

adhd-investingBack in olden times, mankind found it useful to live by mottoes. A motto reduces the helpful lessons of life to three or four words, maybe two, as in the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. Or, apropos now: Look before you leap.

The most famous motto in our time has been Google’s Don’t Be Evil. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but here’s a motto for the next four or five years: Don’t Be Stupid.

It would not have occurred to me to posit Don’t Be Stupid as a motto for our times had not 2008 ended with the Bernard Madoff story. Up to then, we were all preoccupied with the economic meltdown that began in mid-September with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and other household gods of global finance.

The economic crisis, originating in the subprime mortgage lending phenomenon, was said to be complex. Madoff’s story, however, was simple. For years, uncounted numbers of the most sophisticated people here and in Europe conveyed to Mr. Madoff tens of billions of dollars because this solitary investor, unlike virtually every other professional investor, achieved returns in excess of 10% annually in all economic seasons. (more…)

The Gullibility Factor

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks

Why We Keep Falling for Financial Scams
by Stephen Greenspan
The Wall Street Journal
January 3, 2009

Intelligent people have long been ruined by frauds. Psychologist Stephen Greenspan, who specializes in gullibility, explores why investors continue to be swindled — and how he came to lose part of his savings to Bernard Madoff.


There are few areas where skepticism is more important than how one invests one’s life savings. Yet intelligent and educated people, some of them naà¯ve about finance and others quite knowledgeable, have been ruined by schemes that turned out to be highly dubious and quite often fraudulent. The most dramatic example of this in American history is the recent announcement that Bernard Madoff, a highly regarded money manager and a former chairman of Nasdaq, has for years been running a very sophisticated Ponzi scheme, which by his own admission has defrauded wealthy investors, charities and other funds of at least $50 billion. (more…)

Big Foot, Big Fools: How Obvious Does It Have To Be?

Filed under: Hoaxes vs. Scams, Practical Jokes and Mischief

Submitted by Wayne Zebzda:

Frozen Sasquatch just a big rubber popsicle!

Researcher says bigfoot just a rubber gorilla suit
by Juanita Cousins
Associated Press
August 19, 2008

0619930300-200.jpgAtlanta (AP) “” Turns out Bigfoot was just a rubber suit. Two researchers on a quest to prove the existence of Bigfoot say that the carcass encased in a block of ice “” handed over to them for an undisclosed sum by two men who claimed to have found it “” was slowly thawed out, and discovered to be a rubber gorilla outfit.

The revelation comes just days after a much ballyhooed news conference was held in California to proclaim that the remains of the creature were found in the North Georgia mountains was the legendary man-ape.

Steve Kulls, executive director of squatchdetective.com and host of Squatchdetective Radio, says in a posting on a Web site run by Bigfoot researcher Tom Biscardi that as the “evidence” was thawed, the claim began to unravel as a giant hoax. Read the rest of the story here.

Scamming for Links

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams

Thanks to Scott Beale of Laughing Squid for submitting this story from Blogoscoped.com:

Search Engine Optimization Through Hoax News
by Philipp Lenssen
May 22, 2008

13-year-old-credit-card-200.jpgOver at Search Engine Land”™s Sphinn, people are discussing a search engine optimization tactic which tries to assemble backlink juice by posting a fake news article. Jonathan Crossfield wraps it up: “Online marketer Lyndon Antcliff recently helped a client achieve over 1500 inbound links in under a week with a story designed to grab attention.” The article, titled “13 Year Old Steals Dad”™s Credit Card to Buy Hookers,” was and still is hosted at the authoritative looking domain Money.co.uk, which is a financial advisor and Lyndon”™s client, apparently. The hoax news explains that “Ralph Hardy, a 13 year old from Newark, Texas confessed to ordering an extra credit card from his father”™s existing credit card company,” taking his friends on a $30,000 spending spree “culminating in playing “™Halo”™ on an Xbox with a couple of hookers in a Texas motel.”

Jonathan continues to explain that the page received 2,452 votes at social news site Digg.com (it”™s currently at 2,489 diggs, and not marked as incorrect, attracting comments like “Ballsy kid.”). Then, mainstream news made it into the mix. The hoax item was covered in Australia News.com.au, The Daily Telegraph, Fox News and many others, Jonathan says, and even reached the print version of UK”™s Sun newspaper.

Google”™s Matt Cutts makes a statement (more…)

Fakes and Forgeries: The Art of Deception

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Hoaxes vs. Scams, The History of Pranks

An exhibition at the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut, May 12, 2007 – September 9, 2007:

100_preview.jpgBruce Museum Web site:

    “For its major spring/summer exhibition, the Bruce Museum explores a subject that is exceptionally topical in today”™s art world. Fakes and Forgeries: The Art of Deception presents 60 examples of Western paintings, works on paper, sculpture and decorative arts that have been recognized as imposters, including examples of the rarest and most famous deceptive works. Themes of connoisseurship, authentication, and conservation, as well as the evolving scholarship of stylistic development will be examined in an exhibition organized by and exclusively on view at the Bruce Museum.

    Fakes and Forgeries: The Art of Deception reveals the strategies and techniques of the world”™s most successful forgers and exposes the extraordinary lengths to which they went to produce authentic-looking artworks. It also addresses techniques used to expose these deceptions, including X-ray fluorescence, pigment analysis, spectrography, dendrochronology, and carbon dating…”


Here’s a New York Times review by Grace Glueck, They Are Inauthentic, Yes, but Beautiful

Here’s a New York Sun review by Maureen Mullarkey, At the Bruce, the Art of Deception

Thanks The Art of Law Blog

A hoax interview about a hoax movie about a hoax book

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Literary Hoaxes, The History of Pranks

irvingsuskind200.jpgCaveat emptor: Robert Hilferty, critic for Bloomberg News talked with Clifford Irving about “The Hoax” movie. Irving also writes about the movie (which he says he has not seen) on his Web site, where you can download a pdf version of “The Autobiography of Howard Hughes”. A few chapters are free. The whole book is $5.95 which he says, “is a discount of $154 from the Amazon.com price,” although as of today, the book is unavailable on Amazon.com.

Clifford Irving Faked Hughes Book for Fun, Derides ‘Hoax’ Film
By Robert Hilferty

April 25 (Bloomberg) — Clifford Irving, who spent more than a year in prison after writing a fake autobiography of Howard Hughes in the 1970s, says the new Richard Gere film about the hoax is also phony.

“From the first time I read the script, I thought it was a silly, defamatory story about a crackpot, desperate man who by some coincidence bears the same name as mine,” Irving, 76, said last week in a telephone interview from his home in Aspen, Colorado. The movie is supposedly based on his own account, “The Hoax,” written before he went to jail.

Hilferty: Do you consider the “The Autobiography of Howard Hughes” to be your masterpiece?

Irving: No. It’s just a very good book. I’ve written better books, but the autobiography is unique insofar as it is a novel in the form of an autobiography. It’s the most famous unpublished book in America.

Hilferty: It certainly took a lot creativity to make up those conversations.

Irving: We didn’t make them up. We actually had the conversations. My friend Dick Suskind and I set a Sony tape recorder on the table and we’d switch playing the roles of Howard Hughes and Clifford Irving. We got into it as actors. (more…)

A Famous Hoax Revisited

Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Literary Hoaxes, The History of Pranks

Submitted by Erin Clermont:

Clifford Irving, 1972I was obsessed by Clifford Irving back in the day. And I happened to be working at CBS News, so I got the dope on a daily basis. My obsession was based on my unerring (IMHO) instinct that he was lying, from day one, so it was a fantastic experience watching the whole thing unravel, over months, at a network news organization. My boss, Walter Cronkite, wasn’t as interested.

No more than two years later I was working at a literary organization. We didn’t have a receptionist, so whoever was closest to the door answered it. That day I answered a knock and a presentable though borderline seedy guy said, proudly, “I’m Clifford Irving!” I was speechless. All I could think to say was “I always knew you were lying!”–so I passed on the hello.

That face-to-face ranks as one of the most celebrity non-thrill sightings of my life. I still have no respect for Irving. He was a swindler, which is not a “prank” — he went for major bucks, which was $1 million in those days, though it sounds like chump change now. Seeing “The Hoax,” I now realize Irving was fresh out of jail when I met him. Ha. OTOH, the movie made me reasess the quality of the Hughes bio he wrote, which, after all copies were destroyed, has never been reissued. Irving was rather brilliant as a hoax biographer and, using investigative reporter techniques, fashioned a credible biography of the reclusive Hughes.

Richard Gere as Clifford IrvingGere may have topped his career with this performance. He’s terrific as Irving. Cast in the role of Nina Van Pallandt, who turned her Irving sexual liaison into a Hollywood career, is the delicately beautiful and talented Julie Delpy. Unlikely choice–Nina was a big Nordic beauty. And wasn’t she in Gigolo with Richard Gere? Ironic.

Lots of great, early ’70s decor and props in this film. So-called stock footage is used for a scene of a Washington demo against the Vietnam War. Front and center is a guy who looks just like Joey Skaggs. Coincidence?

The Art of the Con: A notorious prankster uses hoaxes to expose the media

Filed under: Hoaxes vs. Scams, The Prank as Art

Joseph Gregor (aka Joey Skaggs) in Metamorphosis

This article was published in Extra! by FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) in the 1999 March/April issue. Although I’ve produced many new works since then, the basic premises described below still resonate for me. This should provide a pretty good summary of the intent of my work and why I do it. I hope it also sets a positive and creative tone for this Blog. -JS

We’re living in a time when it seems everything we see on the news is a bad joke: President Clinton and impeachment, Y2K and the end of the world, Viagra raising the dead, cloning your dead pet dog.

So how can a conscientious media prankster make a mark? When reality gets this strange, pranks are needed more than ever to jolt us into reexamining our values.

With the Internet’s immediacy, its availability to anyone wishing to plant an idea, service or product for the world to consume, there’s more opportunity than ever for both pranks and scams. Anyone can send an e-mail, create a rumor on Usenet, make a website and look official with very little effort or cost.

To me the prank is fine art. (more…)

San Diego hoax expert helps fools see fakery

Filed under: Hoaxes vs. Scams, Prank Busters, The History of Pranks

This article was first published in Vyuz San Diego.-DM


San Diego–San Diego is home to many fine museums including one that doesn”™t actually exist: The Museum Of Hoaxes. (more…)