12 Unbelievable Stories of Scams and Schemes

Con artists have been scamming and scheming since ancient times. And yet every generation seems to bring a new bag of tricks, inspired by the latest app, platform, or pandemic there is to exploit. Take a careful step into our collection of great features about capers and frauds, and uncover some prudent advice on how to avoid becoming an unsuspecting sucker.

When a Psychic Reading Costs You $740,000

Sylvia Varnham O’Regan • GQ

Inside the strange, predatory, and lucrative world of psychics who have successfully scammed customers out of their life savings, and the private investigator who’s trying to put a stop to it.

“He Actually Believes He Is Khalid”: The Amazing 30-Year Odyssey of a Counterfeit Saudi Prince

Mark Seal • Vanity Fair

Investors all over the world fell for the schemes of the man who called himself Khalid bin al-Saud. But the truth turned out to be more incredible than the lie.

I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb

Allie Conti • Vice

While searching for the person who grifted me in Chicago, I discovered just how easy it is for users of the short-term rental platform to get exploited.

A Guide to Pandemic Scams, and What Not to Fall For

Brian X. Chen • The New York Times

Fraudsters see opportunities to target us in these uncertain times. Here are their most popular schemes and how we can protect ourselves.

Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It

Jessica Pressler • The Cut

The story of New York City’s most notorious faux heiress-turned-inmate, Anna Delvey, and the wild antics that won her intrigue—and tens of thousands of dollars.

Psychopathic, Narcissistic Machiavellians

Maria Konnikova • Slate

Are con artists clinical psychopaths—or are they just slightly more devious versions of our more conniving selves?

The Princess, the Plantfluencers, and the Pink Congo Scam

Arielle Pardes • Wired

The pink princess philodendron is the ultimate Instagram plant, with three-digit price tags to match. The following it cultivated was also ripe for deception.

Secret Life of a Con Man

Dustin Grinnell • Narratively

The son of a bank robber and sibling of a psychopath explains how he found his own calling scamming a litany of unsuspecting suckers.

How to Put a Fake Island on the Map

Genevieve Carlton • Atlas Obscura

Frisland never existed, but for centuries, people wanted to believe that it did.

Don’t Get Fooled or Conned Again — Here Are the 5 Tactics to Look out For

Alexis Conran • TED Ideas

People and businesses routinely use five techniques to get us to do what they want. Here’s how to recognize them.

The Grand Schemes of the Petty Grifter

Guy Lawson • GQ

That old adage that you can be anything you want? Well, Jeremy Wilson has lived it for years, crisscrossing the country and inventing new identities. A war hero, an MIT grad, a Hollywood journalist, an IRA operative—Jeremy has claimed to be all those things and more. And oh, what a mess he’s made.

The Wine Thief

Jacob Bernstein • The New York Times

Nicolas DeMeyer was a scammer. Or a hero for the age of inequality. Or a young man haunted by the death of a dear friend. Or all of these things.

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