Five Incredibly Stupid Cons that Actually Worked

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Some cons are so assed-out lame, they prove that it isn’t stupidity that makes someone fall victim to a scam. It can’t be. If it were stupidity, the victims in the following scams would be literally dumber than rocks. After all, if you approach a rock and say, “give me your money,” or “let me examine your lady business,” the rock won’t budge.

Here are five successful cons that make Nigerian 419 scammers look like Ocean’s Eleven.

1. “Your Computer Has Been Infected by the Opus Dei.”

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How Much Did This Lie Make?

Twenty million dollars. Or almost 1/10 as much as Dan Brown is estimated to have earned from writing The Da Vinci Code.

Say What, Now?
Roger Davidson is an accomplished Latin pianist and Jazz composer. He’s also, apparently, no Tom Hanks when it comes to unraveling the mysteries of ancient cults/common sense.

Davidson brought his computer into a specialist to have it looked at for viruses. Appropriately enough, the computer repairman, Vickram Bedi, had a lot in common with people who make computer viruses: free time, creativity and septic tanks where his soul should be.

Bedi first told Davidson that his computer was being infected by a virus in a remote Honduras village. Bedi claimed that he had his uncle fly to Honduras to retrieve a suspicious hard drive. Davidson received these yarns with a stunning lack of suspicion only displayed by religious schoolchildren in remote villages or kittens. So Bedi decided to twist the screws harder with a story so incredulous it would make even Roger Clemens barf.

Bedi claimed he had discovered an assassination plot against Davidson. Polish priests who were part of the Opus Dei were after Davidson’s life. Bedi and his girlfriend used Davidson’s fear of literary demons to systematically fleece him out of millions of dollars.

We develop a lot of sense of what is real and what is not by being forced to make money. Having to endure the hard grits of labor endlessly gives us a cold sense of the hard truth. Davidson, a wealthy oil heir, probably did not develop this sense of reality. That’s our explanation for why he could be so afraid of a fictional monster as to shell out a fortune in imaginary protection payments.

2. “My Wife Is a C.I.A. Agent Who Can Scan Your Body Using Space Satellites and Heal You in Your Sleep.”

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How Much Did This Lie Make?

$800,000. Enough to buy four real M.R.I. machines.

Say What, Now?

Brent Eric Finley isn’t the most morally sound guy in the world, but he is a damn slick liar. Working with his wife, Stacey, Finley convinced many people that his better half was a spook. Not only was she a spook, but she had access to an amazingly futuristic space satellite which could diagnose medical problems from space.

Naturally, once he had found people willing to swallow this big lie, he fed them an even bigger whopper: Stacey Finley could heal their problems by administering medicine to them while they slept. One can only imagine how an individual exchange would have gone:

Brent Finley: My wife’s a C.I.A. Agent. She scanned you from space.

Mark: Stacey? From the carpool?

Brent Finley: Yeah. Satellite tests came back. You’ve got outer space cancer.

Mark: Where?

Brent Finley: Your outer spaces. It’s gonna cost you twenty bucks to fix.

Mark: Great, here’s twenty dollars.

Brent: No, I said forty. Forty thousand dollars.

Mark: How dumb do you think I am?

Brent: Pretty damn dumb, now give me 40 G’s.

When the couple was caught, we suspect they told investigators their alibi was that they were on a space station. They were sentenced to almost 10 years in prison combined, which is long enough to actually become a C.I.A. agent.

Medical care is a scary beast from many angles: it’s complicated, expensive and many people are afraid of hospitals. It’s sorta easy to see how a person’s fear of seeking real diagnoses and treatments could lead to this, in the same way that our fear of commitment prevents us from dating anyone over 25.

3. “Your Money is Cursed and Needs to be Cleansed.”

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How Much Did This Lie Make?

Over $6,500. That’s enough to order 130 exorcisms from this website.

Say What, Now?

A psychic meets with a 64-year-old widow, who probably needs help predicting her new boyfriend’s erections. The psychic, Sonia Adams, blames the widow’s problems on her money, which Adams claims is “cursed.” The old widow believes her and gives her $5,000 in cash, to “cleanse.” Why the widow didn’t simply deposit the money in a bank then withdraw new, uncursed cash is beyond us, she obviously has little experience with evil money.

We can stretch our minds around this event, especially since it seems to have happened to several victims. However, what happened next with the 64-year-old widow sets her con apart. Sonia Adams asked the old lady for a check in order to cleanse that money, too. The lady fell for it to the tune of $33,000. If your money is cursed even when transferred from cash to check form, then it’s not a curse: it’s a computer virus (probably caused by Opus Dei).

Two weeks went by, and the widow grew suspicious. She was able to stop payment on the check, but lost her cash. We can’t fathom why a con artist would hold onto a $33,000 check for two weeks without cleansing that money (and by “cleansing,” we mean “laundering.”)

4. “I’m a Licensed Gynecologist Offering Discount Exams in a Rented Storage Unit.”

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How Much Did This Lie Make?

Look, don’t worry about the money. Just know that more than one woman fell for this, allowing some stranger (who’s not a gynecologist in case you haven’t figured that out) to muck around in the muddy banks of their English Channel.

Say What, Now?

Thomas Remo had a special mixture of sleaze and creativity, like if you puked and the steaming pile looked just like the Mona Lisa. Deciding he had had enough of picking up chicks the normal way (“normal” probably being slipping them date rape drugs in bars), he made his move. Renting out a storage facility, he dressed like a doctor and began offering discount breast exams and something only referred to as “vaginal irrigation.” Yeah, you thought that “muddy banks” reference was just a metaphor.

Undercover agents managed to nab Remo in a sting so creepy, it probably made the detectives wish they were back on Homicide staring at corpses. It must have been like that scene in Silence of the Lambs where Jodie Foster enters the storage facility and finds the head in a jar, only Hannibal Lecter is waiting inside the room and he wants to examine her vagina. Except that would still be less creepy, because Hannibal Lecter is an actual doctor.

5. “If You Have Bad Credit, We’ll Sell You a Computer for Three Times the Price (After You Pay 33%). Also, We’ll Never Actually Send You the Computer.”

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How Much Did This Lie Make?

$15 Million. Enough to buy your own supercomputer.

Say What, Now?

In recent years, you may have seen commercials for a computer-on-credit company called Blue Hippo. The gist of their service is that they provide computers to people who can’t afford them due to bad credit. Why people who can’t even get a few hundred dollars on credit are out buying anything anyway is beyond us. But, sadly, people with horrible credit patterns are a “key demographic” to many businesses selling crap.

That’s why Blue Hippo got away with offering such unbelievably poor values: people just didn’t read the fine print at all. that they were charged an initial payment of $124 in order to receive their computer. When said customers made the payment, the computer delivery was delayed and more payments of about $650 were demanded. In all, Blue Hippo wanted $1,800-$2,100 in payments for a system valued at $700.

All this would’ve just fallen in the category of “scummy.” But what propels this company down to “scum on the bottom of the Marianas Trench” scummy is the fact that Blue Hippo never sent out a computer to anyone.

Not one computer.

Well, okay, maybe one. Federal investigators believe that exactly one of the Blue Hippo customers received a machine in the first 18 months of the crooked company’s operations. They believe that computer was sent because of a technical error.

Blue Hippo declared bankruptcy in 2009, after being investigated more times than Bugs Meany. Frankly, we’re shocked that people would actually expect more from a credit company called “Blue Hippo.” If a guy approached us and said his name was “Purple Monkey Dinosaur” and then tried to give us a loan we’d run away.

With the double-dip recession putting cash at a laborious premium, it is gratifying to see fools part with their money. But it’s important to remember that the victims of these cons didn’t lose their savings because of a lack of education (the Knights Templar computer victim won a freakin’ Grammy!) Most victims fall prey due to being opportunistic, allowing their fears to be exploited, or simply just not reading the fine print. Some day there will be an alarm we can pull when we spot a con, and then everyone within earshot will come and beat the scammer. Until that day people will need to endure the task of, you know, having to manage their money in a responsible manner.

Evan Hoovler writes for many popular comedy websites. He co-authored the National Lampoon book, “Pimp It Yourself”, and he wants to be your Facebook friend.

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