6 incredibly stupid cons that actually worked

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 six successful cons that make Nigerian 419 scammers look like Ocean’s Eleven.

#1. “Your Computer Has Been Infected by Polish Priests Attempting to Take Over the US Government.”

A portal to another, a lot more exciting, dimension.

How Much Did This Lie Make?

Authorities believe twenty million dollars. That’s almost 1/10 as much as Dan Brown is estimated to have earned from writing the wildly successful The Da Vinci Code (the reference will make sense, we promise).

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.

It all started when Davidson brought his computer into Datalink, a computer store in wealthy Westchester County, to have a virus removed after becoming concerned he might lose years of work on his music. The computer repairman he met on that fateful day, Vickram Bedi, had a lot in common with people who make computer viruses: free time, creativity, and a septic tank where his soul should be.

Bedi first told Davidson that the virus on his computer was emanating from a remote Honduras village. Not only that, this virus was so malicious and clever that it had jumped to all the other computers in the Datalink store. When Anderson to his astonishment believed the tale, Bedi then claimed that he could have his Indian military uncle fly to Honduras to hunt down and neutralize the virus source — for a fee, of course.

Davidson accepted these stories with a stunning lack of suspicion, and paid what was asked of him.

A few days later, he received news that the Indian uncle’s mission had been a success. He had flown to the remote Honduras village in a military aircraft and retrieved the harddisk that was sending out the viruses. Threat averted.

Of course Bedi couldn’t let the scam stop there. Davidson would apparently believe anything he told him, and, Bedi had found out by now, he’s also the heir to a multi-million dollar trust fund. So he decided to twist the screws harder and concoct a story so incredulous it would make even Roger Clemens barf.

A since deleted YouTube video of one of Anderson’s musical performances shows Bedi lurking in the background, larping as Anderson’s CIA bodyguard.

So Bedi told Davidson that he had discovered an assassination plot. Polish priests who were part of the Opus Dei — the secret religious order in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code — were coming to Westchester County to take Davidson’s life. The only thing that could save him at this point is Bedi, who coincidentally, he told Anderson, is a secret CIA agent working on a project to stem the tide of polish priests trying to take over the US government.

Davidson was relieved to then receive Bedi’s offer of an all-encompassing security package that would neutralize the polish priest threat. Bedi would indefinitely protect his computer as well as his physical safety and all it would cost him is $160,000 a month. He accepted on the spot.

But Bedi wasn’t content with a mere $160,000 a month windfall, and used his new bodyguarding gig to get even closer to his mark. Over time, Anderson would appoint Bedi and his girlfriend as vice-president and treasurer of his Society for Universal Sacred Music, and eventually even co-trustee of his $60 million family trust.

Bedi (and now his girlfriend) used Davidson’s fear of cults and literal demons to systematically fleece him out of millions of dollars over a long period of time. The scam didn’t end until one day Anderson decided to plant GPS trackers on the cars of the alleged Opus Dei assassins. When they complained and police started digging around, Bedi’s mountain of lies came crashing down and truth finally dawned on the victim.

According to the local police chief, Bedi and his girlfriend were “isolating the victim and trying to control every dollar he had. They did it very systematically and infiltrated every aspect of his life. It was almost a brainwashing technique.”

We develop a lot of sense of what is real and what is not by being forced to get out into the real world to make money. Davidson, an already eccentric oil heir fixated on his solitary pursuit, probably stayed within a very small bubble all of his life and 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.”

How Much Did This Lie Make?

Almost $1 million. 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.

Of course there were people ready to accept this preposterous lie. And, once he had found them, he fed them an even bigger whopper: Stacey Finley could heal their problems by beaming satellite medicine into their bodies 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.

Over a period of six years(!), the Finleys persuaded a total of 22 people to pay them an estimated $989,898. Their victims depleted their savings, insurance policies, and pension funds for the space medicine, and none were the wiser until the couple finally ran into someone suspicious enough of the Star Trek quackery to alert a local cop.

When the scheme was busted, we imagine they told investigators their alibi was that they were on a space station. They were sentenced to almost 10 years in prison combined (as well as $873,786.94 restitution), 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.”

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’t 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.”

Go into my storage facility’s 8-by-10-foot kitchen and open vagin.

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?

50-year-old 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.

Authorities got wise to the operation after reading this not at all bizarre ad in an alternative Dallas newspaper:

Doctors examinations. Private, discrete exam office for free physicals, gyn/well-woman, breast and enema exams for women/couples 19-55 by Dr. Patrick, independent MD. Fantasy exams for couples are encouraged. Outcall exams avail.

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.

Another investigator, posing as a 16-year-old, called and said she wanted an exam but not at a clinic because it would require parental supervision. The man claiming to be Dr. Patrick said she could be examined alone, “but would have to be on the sly and discreet” — that he could get in trouble because of her age, according to court documents.

When the investigator posing as a teen said she wanted a pregnancy test, the man said he was not doing blood work but would do a pelvic exam that required her to be naked, according to documents.

Incident report, via The Smoking Gun.

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. You Are Going To Spend a Decade Brokering Fake Contracts Worth Billions for Us Via Skype/Discord And One Day You Will Become a Trillionaire Guaranteed.”

How Much Did This Lie Make?

This is on-going.

Say What, Now?

Read our separate piece on this mind-boggling scam operation involving a vast network of intellectually less than stellar individuals being played by trolls/scam artists.

#6. “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.”

How Much Did This Lie Make?

$15 Million. Enough to buy your own supercomputer.

Say What, Now?

You may remember commercials for a computer-on-credit company called Blue Hippo. The gist of their service was 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.

Here’s how it worked: 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 could’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 actually sent out even a single computer to anyone.

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. Then again Go Daddy is still going strong.

In a strange way, 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.