8 Old-Timey Scams, Grifts, and Cons


When the Brooklyn Bridge opened to traffic in the late 19th century, most people saw it as a great way to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan. George C. Parker, however, saw it as the perfect opportunity for a scam.

Parker whipped up some fraudulent documents “proving” that he owned the bridge and proceeded to sell it to very wealthy, very gullible investors. As for why anyone would want to own the bridge (other than to brag about it at cocktail parties), the major selling point was that you could charge tolls. And Parker wasn’t the bridge’s only illegal seller—brothers Charles and Fred Gondorff went so far as to slap “For sale” signs on it when police weren’t around.

On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss’s Justin Dodd is covering those and other highly entertaining stories of scams, grifts, and cons from history. Press play below to hear about fake cars, Ponzi schemes, Sir Francis Drake’s dubious fortune, and more.

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