The best part of pulling a prank on somebody is sticking around to watch your plan perfectly unravel until the person finally realizes what’s happening. Perhaps this is what makes lengthy or ongoing jokes even better.
When you think about it, the reason we call some criminals “con artists” is because the pulling of a true con, especially a long-term one, takes masterful skill and cleverness… or just a really gullible victim.
History has been filled with plenty of long cons, also called confidence tricks, many of which exist in the public imagination today as stereotypical and tired schemes which we like to think we’re all-the-wiser to. But are we?
People shared stories of some of the trickiest long cons in history, as well as some of the best pranks they’ve ever pulled over time, and these stories will have you wondering what you’ve fallen for without even realizing!
Don’t get any ideas…
You’ve probably heard of the term “Ponzi scheme,” and while they already existed before Charles Ponzi, he’s the guy that gave them their name today.
Born in 1882, Charles Ponzi was an Italian immigrant to the United States who was very good at numbers and schemes. His first big break was buying foreign coupons for cheap prices and then reselliing them in the United States for a 400% profit. Later, he started asking people to invest their money in his company with a guaranteed 50% return on their money within 90 days; however, the money he gave them back was not profit but merely capital from new investors.
Ponzi was eventually caught and deported, but he was so successful at what he did during his prime that these “get rich quick” schemes still carry his name today!
This con artist is especially famous for operating in post-WWI France, and he is known as the man who sold the Eiffel Tower twice.
Born in 1890, Lustig’s biggest scam involved meeting in secret with six scrap metal companies and pretending to be the government official in charge of demolishing the Eiffel Tower, which was built for the 1889 Paris Exposition and was never meant to be permanent. He carefully selected the most gullible businessman in order to sell the monument, even going so far as to admit he was a corrupt government official looking for a bribe. Thus Lustig was able to collect a large bribe and flee the country; meanwhile the businessman was so embarrassed he never even went to the authorities.
Only a month later, Lustig repeated his scheme, but he was caught when the businessman set to buy the tower went to the police with the counterfeit contract.
In his later years, Lustig tricked Al Capone into investing $50,000 in a fraudulent stock deal. After returning the money, claiming that the deal had fallen through, Capone was so happy with Lustig’s honesty that he gave him $5,000 for good measure. Of course, this was Lustig’s intention all along.