In the last 18 months Australians have lost more than $1bn to scammers. This week is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s national scam week.
Not all of the people below are scammers, some just got caught up in scandals and some may have just gently massaged the truth a little to navigate their route through the highways and byways of commercial entrepreneurship and social ascension.
So how credulous are you?
- 1.After pleading guilty to multiple fraud offences in 2009, New York financier Bernie Madoff admitted he was surprised he got away with the world’s largest Ponzi scheme for so long (almost two decades). He attributed the longevity of his crimes to the incompetence of which famous fictional sleuth?Jacques ClouseauMaxwell SmartLieutenant ColumboInspector GadgetReveal
- 2.Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, best known for her appearances in the Iron Man and X-Men franchises, freaked out her 63m Weibo followers after totally vanishing from public sight and social media for three months in 2018. Her disappearance was later attributed to…A kidnapping by Russian extortionists demanding $US12m from Marvel StudiosLying low after being accused of tax evasionWeibo cancelling her social media account for criticising the Chinese governmentA publicity stunt for her forthcoming role in the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 film The Lady VanishesReveal
- 3. Norma Khouri caused an Australian literary scandal in 2004 when it was revealed her Random House bestseller, Forbidden Love, supposedly based on the true story of the honour killing of her best friend in Jordan, was a hoax. Khouri claimed she would put things right by writing a sequel. The name of the sequel was…Sanctioned HateMy Friend, My EnemyA Matter of HonourSorryReveal
- 4.US Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway collected a vast audience for her aspirational life on social media. Then things went awry in a spectacular way for the social media star. What led people to brand her a scammer? The Cut published an essay by her former friend Natalie Beach, in which Beach revealed she had ghostwritten many of Calloway’s Instagram captions. She held a series of $165 “creativity workshops” so poorly planned some attendees took to social media to compare the event to Fyre Festival. She secured a six figure book deal, never delivered a manuscript, then claimed to have ultimately paid her publisher back with income she made from starting an OnlyFans account. She launched a $75 homemade skincare product called Snake OilReveal
- 5.Not a scam, but definitely a scandal: The 1990 nuptials of Melbourne socialite and heiress Primrose “Pitty Pat” Dunlop and Lorenzo Montesini, aka as Prince Giustiniani, Count of the Phanaar, Knight of San Sophia and Baron Alexandroff, promised to be the society wedding of the year. Four days before the Venice ceremony was to take place, it all had to be called off because…The groom was already secretly marriedPitty Pat found out Montesini wasn’t really a prince, a count, a knight or a baronThe bride absconded with the best manThe groom absconded with the best manReveal
- 6.1980s/1990s pop duo Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, better known as Milli Vanilli, were forced to return their Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1990. The duo were accused of…Singing none of the vocals on their hit songs and lip-syncing during live concertsCopyright breachConsumer fraudAll of the aboveReveal
- 7. In 2013, Australian Belle Gibson released her The Whole Pantry cookbook and app, promoting the merchandise with claims she had cured herself of a terminal disease through healthy eating and alternative therapies. She was later found guilty of misleading and deceptive behaviour, and was ordered to pay a $410,000 fine for making false claims about her donations to charity. What ailment did Gibson claimed she had cured herself of? Multiple sclerosisBrain cancerLiver cancerProstate cancerReveal
- 8.Helen Demidenko, aka Helen Darville and Helen Dale – won the Miles Franklin in 1994 for her novel The Hand that Signed the Paper, with the author feigning Ukrainian heritage to give authenticity to the tale. Two decades later she ended up working as a political adviser for a controversial Australian senator. Who was it?David Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrats)Pauline Hanson (One Nation)Fraser Anning (Conservative National Party)Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens)Reveal
- 9.Australian career conman Peter Foster has been convicted on numerous fraud offences, and has dragged celebrities such as Muhummad Ali, Samantha Fox and Cherie Blair into his web of deceit over the years. Where was he finally imprisoned?AustraliaBritainUnited StatesVanuatuAll of the aboveReveal
- 10.Which of these famous bridges has been “sold” to dupes on at least three occasions? The Brooklyn Bridge Sydney Harbour BridgeThe Ponte VecchioThe Golden GateReveal
That’s it folks. Stay safe during Scams Awareness Week.