20 Biggest Frauds and Scams of Recent Times

11Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi

The funny thing about Charles Ponzi is that he didn’t actually know what he was doing was actually a pyramid scheme in the beginning. He started the company that would later be a Ponzi scheme with the intent to invest in an arbitrage dealing with international relay coupons (which were almost like postage paid envelopes that were bought in one country but could be redeemed in another for cash). He thought he could make so much money doing this that he promised the first investors close to 50% interest and as he was trying to figure out how to make the original plan work, he just started paying out the original investors with money that came in from new investors. Those people spread the news so that more and more people were giving him money, so he kept it up. He hired other people to bring in more investors and it got to the point where he was receiving $1 million a day (in 1920) in investments (about $12.5 million in today's dollars). It all collapsed before he could figure out a way to make the original plan, or any other scheme, actually work. Ponzi's investors lost about $20 million in 1920 dollars ($225 million in 2011 dollars).

12New York Federal Reserve

New York Federal Reserve

In 2016, a group of hackers almost stole $1 billion from the New York Federal Reserve but were discovered when they spelled “foundation” as “fandation” in money request transcripts. They still managed to get away with $81 million.

13Nub city

Nub city

The city of Vernon, Florida has been nicknamed "nub city" because so many residents have intentionally amputated limbs, disguising the injury as an accident, as a means of insurance fraud. One man had 25+ open insurance policies and collected over $1,000,000 after amputating his left foot

14Fake Goya

Fake Goya

In 2014, two brothers from Girona, Spain sold a fake Francisco de Goya painting to a purported Sheikh for €1.5 million. The con artists realized they had been tricked when they tried to deposit 1.7 million Swiss francs (€1.5 million) in a Geneva bank and were told that the banknotes were mere photocopies.

15Teacup Pig

Teacup Pig

The "teacup pig" fad was just a scam that sold baby piglets to unsuspecting buyers. Paris Hilton bought one off the internet and now owns a massive mama hog.

161997 Albanian Civil War

1997 Albanian Civil War

Albania's economy was wrecked in the 1990s when 2/3rds of the population was lured into government-backed pyramid schemes which then failed. It is estimated that close to $1.5 billion was invested in companies offering monthly interest rates ranging from 10%-25%, while the average monthly income was around $80. A significant number of Albanians sold their homes to invest, and immigrants working in Greece and Italy transferred additional resources to the schemes. After the schemes fell through, the country was in chaos which led to 6 months of anarchy with disgruntled citizens, army deserters, and even mafia syndicates seizing control of much of the country.

17Billionaire Boys Club

Billionaire Boys Club

Billionaire Boys Club was a Ponzi scheme started in 1983 by young boys from rich families. Money contributed by investors was spent supporting lavish lifestyles. When funds ran short in 1984, club members turned to murder & at least two people were killed as they tried to raise more money.

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18Health Care Fraud

Health Care Fraud

In the most extensive case of health care billing fraud in US Department of Justice history, 243 people were busted for fraudulent billing to the tune of $712 million. One Doctor alone had billed for 205 hours in a single day.

19Ren Xiaofeng

Ren Xiaofeng

Ren Xiaofeng, a manager of The Agricultural Bank of China, stole $26,000 from the bank with the intention of buying lottery tickets, winning, and repaying the initial theft. Against all odds, he won enough to repay the $26,000, so he tried this again with $6.7 million. He lost all but $95,000 and was sentenced to death.

20Tarshema Brice


In 2014, a woman named Tarshema Brice was arrested for printing $20,000 fake bills at home. She took $5 bill with specific watermark, soaked them in degreaser, used a toothbrush to scrub off the ink and then printed scanned images of $50 or $100 bills over them.

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