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.
“Author Martin Fone explores the psychology and methodology deployed by the scammers and shows what can happen when avarice preys on credulity and gullibility. The key characteristics he unearths amongst his despicable gallery of scammers includes; incredible claims, creative use of advertising, playing on people’s fears and aspirations, unscrupulous business practices and, when it all goes wrong as it often does, a propensity to flee the scene and leave others to pick up the pieces”.
It’s an easy book to read and is entertaining. We tend to think of scams as either the modern scourge of email, text and Internet scams or the large scale financial fraud such as Ponzi schemes but Martin Fone steers clear of the most well-known scams such as people selling Tower Bridge repeatedly, the South Sea bubble etc. and instead finds nuggets in the world of scams.
People have been scamming each other I suspect since humans began trading and Martin has found some very early examples of scams we think of as modern day.
Such as the 419 scams that we all get via email where the scammer offers a fortune but there is a catch and the victim ends up repeatedly paying small amounts until they realise there is no fortune to be had. Martin found examples of this scam from the days of the French Revolution where prison guards would get names of wealthy people across France and create stories of a servant and his master trying to escape Revolutionary France with a trunk of gold but needs the recipient to look after valuable items temporarily for him. There are no items of course and the wealthy person is conned into handing over modest monies in return for the said fortune which doesn’t exist.
My favourite story in the book is of a diamond mine scam in the middle of the Alaskan Gold Rush. People already hunting for gold are a good target for further scams and many were tricked till a diamond expert realised the find of diamonds and gems in the same location was an impossibility.
An enjoyable read.
I’ve never read a book like this before and that’s unfortunate because it was very entertaining and even shocking… and also kind of sad how some people will always be trying to con or take advantage of others, and have been doing so for a very, very long time. Many of these examples take place many decades ago, even in the 1700s, and in a way the older ones are even better because of the sheer audacity of the cons. There is a certain fascination to the ‘evil genius’ and part of me felt bad for thinking this was ‘entertaining’ when these actions hurt so many people on so many levels. But he does a great job covering a myriad of different situations, touching on the important facts and most intriguing aspects. Would make a perfect ‘coffee table’ type book. (5 stars) Candace Whaller, Senior Reviewer—Indie Book Reviewers
This is an eye-opening, very well-written and highly informative book! I have read books on different types of scams and frauds over the years with regards to business and finances, but this one was different because it just gave 50 quick overviews of instances from medicine, drinks (um medicated wine anyone?), appearances and health, love, of course, business and money scams…you name it, seems like humans are not running out of any ways to cheat one another. I hadn’t heard of most of these before and admire the author’s research. He adds his own personality and experience/backgrounds to give some parts more insight. I’d I recommend this book, “50 scams and hoaxes to everyone who wants to know what is really going on if they aren’t careful. (5 stars) Tony Alcott—Indie Book Reviewers
I enjoyed Martin Fone’s other book “50 curious questions” and was happy to try this one. He has a great ability to take these different examples of these seemingly common or ordinary things or events and shows how easily people are fooled by things that promise extraordinary benefits – at the cost of using their own common sense—and keeps it fresh, fast-moving, and oddly amusing… He covers several different eras in history and different ways that people have deceived, cheated, manipulated and fooled others, and to a lot of bad outcomes. I like that even though this is disheartening, it also is enlightening and has an infectious energy. Not dry or boring, and holds nothing back in the way of exposing devious behavior that many people might not be aware of. Glad to see he has yet another book published – I’ll read that one too! Recommend. (4-5 stars) – Jhonnie Parker-Robbins
Books like this one are the kind that makes great gifts, in my opinion – because you might not search it out on your own, with it being such a niche topic, but when you read it, it’s just so interesting and unique, and TRUE that you are pulled right in. It’s an addicting delight despite the shady subjects of the anecdotes, this book is still fun, doesn’t get heavy or tedious, and not depressing. There is a difference between “Credulous” and Gullible’ and the author says… it is really a shame that the most innocent, trusting or naïve ones are the ones most taken advantage of, and it’s a shame that we need to be so guarded or jaded. But it is important to be informed and alert, and if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. (4 stars) Bella J. Johnstone, Senior Reviewer – Indie Book Reviewers
Martin Fone’s straight-forward and engaging style is captivating and authentic He uses his vast and well-researched knowledge ‘story-style’ share some of the more interesting “50 Scams and Hoaxes” that have taken place over the past few centuries. Each Item on the list gives a brief overview of all the important details of the scams and adds in some sardonic wit to keep it from feeling like a report or documentary. It flowed so well and I appreciate that he wrapped up each point the best he could without leaving us hanging what the turnout for the scammers/victims were. Also liked the inclusion of the ‘harmless fun’ hoaxes and would love to read more of those types of stories. I think he is right when he says he’ll never run out of material! Recommend. (4-5 stars) ChristyLee Cooper – Indie Book Reviewers
Cool concept! I like that its sort of ‘schadenfreudian’ but not cruel or mocking… just encourages the reader to use common sense and don’t be so gullible when hearing things that sound like some magical remedy or solution to any of life problems – health, money, success, anything! People do need to question the ‘truth’ that is often presented to the masses from unscrupulous sources. Perfect pacing and tempo for a book like this and the narrative is easy to follow as he hops from one incredible scam to another. I was familiar with a few of these, but definitely were a lot of new ones! I could’ve kept reading them all day… Made me feel less stupid in a way, LOL. While not exactly a ‘mainstream’ sort of book, in a way that is exactly what makes it so good. Those who don’t learn from the mistakes of others or the past are doomed to repeat them… ignore the advice at your own peril! (5 stars) Curt Lehmen— Indie Book Reviewers
Warning – when starting “50 Scams and Hoaxes” by Martin Fone, make sure you don’t have anywhere you need to be or anything you need to do because you won’t want to stop reading until you’ve finished it all!! Trust me on this! It’s so easy to read, and each example is almost more interesting than the last–easy to want to read ‘just one more… just one more…’ and just keeps going with one interesting scam/scenario/invention/scheme after the next. I think what I liked the most about this book was just the overall feel the author managed to create where it felt intimate like a friend is telling me these really audacious, unbelievable stories that I didn’t want to stop listening to. I’ve always had a morbid fascination with these types of people – those who do a convincing job of distorting perceptions/reality and manipulating truths so that the average person has no idea what the real story is. The morality and ‘grey areas’ that seem to fluctuate wildly and be rough lessons to learn. Intelligently constructed and with impressive research tied it all together quite well. (5 stars) Ellen Pennino, Senior Reviewer – Indie Book Reviewers
Martin Fone’s Fifty Scams and Hoaxes brings to light trickery of all types over the years. Based on the span of cases presented in this book, it is obvious that people will always continue to be gullible. It is divided into sections by type of scam and is easy to pick up and read a few sections. This book was interesting, eye opening, and a bit sad but overall enjoyable. (5 stars) – Dawn Tarrant, Netgalley