Wow, ok so this was an entertaining read. From describing how a tonic of extra strong pharmaceutical grade morphine was marketed as a way of getting people un addicted to morphine (yeah really) to a youth restoring face cream that was full of lead. This book recounts multiple stories of hoaxs and scams from the last few centuries helping us remember that people have been trying to take other people for a ride as long as can be remembered.
An interesting read, good for a few chuckles and a few WTF moments like the explanation of the woman who gave birth to rabbits.
by Kyle Davis
Fifty Scams and Hoaxes is an enjoyable read. Taking peoples gut feelings to the limit. Preying on the gullible and the down right stupid it tells tales of skullduggery and shenanigans that was rife in the 18th and 19th Century. Some of the scams are still used to this day and are relevant in the world we live in right now. The book also explains the origins of certain hoaxes and how some sayings got into the English language. For example I didn’t know where the term ‘Quack’ for a clinical Doctor came from, I do now! All in all a great read, well written humours in parts and defiantly a buy for the people out there who a curious about the history of scams and hoaxes.
by Peter Harriman
Human credulity and gullibility have been on trial since the beginning of time. Case in point, successful cons and fraudulent schemes are usually based on human beings underlying insecurities found in health or wealth. Before they cash in their chips, everyone wants to find a quick road to wealth. There rests the rub.
Anyone who finds themselves at the doorsteps of illness wants to regain their health as soon as possible. Any quick fix will do. Easily exploited, they’ll try or do anything to alleviate their condition which leaves them ripe for the picking. As the old adage generally suggests: “if it sounds too good to be true…”
Promises were abound, especially, throughout the 19th century that guaranteed to treat practically every ailment of the human body. Long before established regulatory protocol, many magical cures flooded the market laced with alcohol, codeine, cocaine, morphine and opium. Sailing on cloud 9, it was no wonder people thought they were getting better. As imagined, drug addiction was on the incline.
On the financial front, countless scams were perpetrated leaving many hopeful investors in financial ruin. People from every walk-of-life wanted nothing more than to get rich quick. In the words of PT Barnum: “there’s a sucker born every minute.” Truer words never spoken.
For the most part, The narrative provided a humorous account of human behavior. At times though, it was saddening to see such a pitiful response by this planet’s most civilized race. Being our own worst enemy, we always hope for the best even if it’s against all odds. That’s all any of us want in this short life. No one’s immune. No matter how insignificant the outcome, I don’t believe there’s anybody who’s never been conned or swindled out of something in their life. In society’s defense I volunteer – we’re only human.
A snack-sized 90 minute sojourn into 50 scams that are written with Martin Fone’s own irreverent style.
Fone speculates that most scams rely upon the interplay between three of mankind’s less desirable traits, namely avarice, credulity and gullibility.
Unsurprisingly, most of the so-called healing elixirs contained a combination of alcohol, cocaine, opium and morphine. No wonder they were so popular in yesteryear!
Surprisingly, the contemporary Nigerian Prince email scams can be traced back to an ignoble scam originally believed to have been propagated in 18th century France.
The 50 scams highlighted can be a rather hit and miss affair, but there isn’t much substance here, except for a small laugh at the gullibility of man since age immemorial.
By Quintin Zimmermann
Curiosity more than anything else had me reading this book, as it’s not something that i would normally read. Actually it made rather a change from the norm and found the book quite interesting. One of two i have heard about. I recall when my husband and i were invited to attend a ‘talk’ about making money (pyramids). Very clever how they added up their sums on a blackboard, but we were not fooled. Worth a read.
My thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for my copy. This is my honest review.
In Fifty Scams and Hoaxes, Martin Fone, author of Fifty Clever Bastards, looks into scams and hoaxes from history, including fake medical fake medical treatments and weight loss products, financial scams and and bizarre hoaxes such as Mary Toft, an Englishwoman from the 1700s, who claimed to be able to produce rabbits from her vagina.
Some of the scams will make you feel sorry for the victims who were swindled out of their hard-earned cash, while in other cases, it’s hard not to chuckle at the greed and stupidity that lead them to be fooled. As Fone himself says, “most scams rely on the interplay between three of the less desirable human traits: avarice, credulity and gullibility”.
The section on medical hoaxes became a bit dull after a while since many of the fake medicines were so similar. I found the sections on financial scams and other hoaxes more entertaining since there is a bit more variety in the entries and some of them are very silly and strange. A sceptic who is really interested in this kind of thing might not find much in this book that is new to them, but it is convenient to have all these scams listed in one volume.
Fifty Scams and Hoaxes is a fairly short book about human gullibility through the ages, presented in an easygoing, readable way. It’s a fun, quirky read that might be nice to enjoy over the holidays.