Ever since our society embraced the concept of finance and monetary gains, there have been people looking to take advantage of the situation. The world has seen several dozen successful conmen, some more notorious than others. Below is a historical overview of some of the world’s most successful conmen and how they pulled off their “stunts” with relative ease.
5. Victor Lustig
Everyone who read a history or a book or two may have come across the name of Victor Lustig. This man successfully conned investors into buying the Eiffel Tower not once, but twice. He even managed to scam Al Capone, a feat very few people succeeded in achieving. Most of his scams took place between 1910 and 1925, yet he eluded arrest until May 1935. Victor Lustig is an “example” for conmen all over the world, even to this very day.
4. Juan Carlos Guzman-Betancourt
Colombian entrepreneurs have a certain swagger and allure that instills a lot of confidence. Some entrepreneurs use this for nefarious purposes, which is exactly what Juan Carlos Guzman-Betancourt has done. His list of accomplishments includes using stolen identities, committing credit card fraud, and conning the wealthy. A number of hotel burglaries got him arrested in 1998 yet he skipped bail successfully. In most cases, Guzman-Betancourt would claim he lost keys or security codes to hotel rooms, which he then stripped of any valuables left behind by the residents.
3. Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr.
When one goes by the nickname of the “Great Impostor” it is not hard to see why Ferdinand Waldo Demara, Jr. is one of the world’s biggest conmen. His primary activity revolves around stealing identities, which allowed him to pose as a surgeon, a lawyer, and even a prison warden. However, the pinnacle of his success came in the form of impersonating a doctor during the Korean War, during which he saved several soldiers’ lives. Once he got a lot of media attention for this feat, things unraveled and Demara was exposed as a fraud.
2. Konrad Kujau
Although this name may not ring a bell for a lot of people, Konrad Kujau is one of the world’s most notorious conmen to date. He made a name for himself during the Hitler Diaries Scandal, where he forged all 62 volumes of the diaries. While he put in a lot of effort – even going as far as staining the pages with tea and copying Hitler’s writing style – his fraud was eventually uncovered.
Unfortunately, that only occurred once he made a boatload of money from selling these fake documents. To be more precise, the German magazine Stern paid over nine million Deutsche Marks for the forged diaries. The Sunday Times fell for the same scam, despite having the documents vetted by a prominent Hitler historian. Kujau also sold forgeries of Hitler paintings and a replica of the pistol Hitler allegedly killed himself with.
1. Charles Ponzi
If there is one conman who doesn’t need any introduction, it is Charles Ponzi. After all, the famous Ponzi Scheme scam has been named after him many moons ago. Pyramid investment schemes can be found all over the world, even in the world of bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Charles Ponzi raked in millions of dollars in just eight months, allowing him to keep growing his famous “coupons” scheme. Later in life, he went on to sell swampland in Florida, which eventually lead to his arrest.
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