Archive for April 16th, 2009

_45664954_singer_wiki226iYou’ve got to hand it to people who come up with scams and hoaxes … they truly grasp the human condition, then run with it, frequently all the way to the bank.

Imagination is essential, of course, as coming up with some of the ideas that end up flying takes a mind unfettered by the limits of reality and common sense, and to someone like me who writes fiction when time allows that’s bloody impressive.

Here’s a recent example of the creativity of scam artists at work, this time in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi police say they are investigating a hoax that has seen people rushing to buy old-fashioned sewing machines for up to $50,000.

The Singer sewing machines are said to contain traces of red mercury, a substance that may not exist.

But it is widely thought that it can be used to find treasure, ward off evil spirits or even make nuclear bombs.

Brilliant, heh?

I mean, really, this has it all … greed, ease of access, a bit of voodoo, even nuclear holocaust fercryinoutloud … and has not only cleared the way for the need to purchase new sewing machines, it’s even spawned a rash of thefts of these sturdy old war horses, thereby adding an element of high drama to the tale.

One of my favorite touches to this hoax has people in Madina, ” … holding mobile phones up to the machines, due to the belief that they could be used to detect the presence of red mercury, ” thereby allowing suckers to feel as though they have the inside track on the dupe loop.

Imagining the process that led up to this flurry of trade in sewing machines sets my mind racing like a basting stitch at full throttle … Hey, we just happen to have a few old Singers in the back room might have been a spark. Ignite that with a bit of red mercury and a bit of spin and Viola!, a hoax is born.

We had one going around these islands a few years ago that was astounding in its simplicity. Large wads of plain brown paper were being sold for big bucks on the promise that a mysterious liquid would be provided soon afterward that would reveal the useless piles to actually consist of … ta daaaa! … real US dollars!

None too few folks lined up to trade their Seychelles Rupees for piles of what was essentially wrapping paper for very small items.

How many of these wonders of creativity and gullibility occur in the world on a regular basis is unknown, as word only ever leaks out when the truth is revealed and people have to admit that they’ve been hoodwinked, and when the international press picks up the story they must feel, well, dumb as hell.

There are, of course, some scams of such magnitude and complexity that they fly for years and years, involving millions of dollars and billions of people. The UN comes to mind, as does one of my favorite books … “Another Roadside Attraction”.

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