New Book & Giveaway: “Don’t Fall For It: A Short History of Financial Scams” by Ben Carlson


Got another book to share with y’all!

“Don’t Fall For It: A Short History of Financial Scams”
by financial blogger, and analyst, Ben Carlson

Who you might know from A Wealth of Common Sense blog or his Animal Spirits podcast – both of which have been instrumental in helping demystify the world of investing around our community, and more specifically for ME over the years!

One of the smartest – and nicest – guys in our space, which is even more apparent when he agreed to pass me a few copies of the book to give out today ;)

This one’s not exactly around “investing” like his previous book (“A Wealth of Common Sense: Why Simplicity Trumps Complexity in Any Investment Plan” – also worth reading!), but it should still open your eyes a bit and *definitely* keep you entertained…

You might even finish it!

Here’s a clip from his blog post on it, and then the more formal summary below that:


“Don’t Fall For It: A Short History of Financial Scams”
by Ben Carlson

dont fall for it scam book

I pulled what I felt were the best stories, characters, anecdotes, and data points from each of the frauds I chose… Each chapter is a standalone story so you can jump around if one topic doesn’t catch your fancy.

This is a quick rundown of some of the stories and ideas covered:

  • A history of the Nigerian email scam (it goes back much further than you think)
  • How Robert Mueller was involved in an absolutely unbelievable con
  • The millionaire doctor who performed surgical procedures on humans using goat testicles
  • The man who tried to sell the Eiffel Tower… twice
  • Professional athletes and their money
  • Why people latch onto end of the world predictions
  • Backroom Hollywood poker games with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Ben Affleck
  • How Ulysses S. Grant went from being the architect of the Civil War victory to president to broke
  • When Great Britain went bonkers over trains
  • How match factories in the roaring 20s helped create one of the biggest frauds in history
  • Type I & Type II charlatans
  • Isaac Newton and the South Sea Bubble
  • The Madoff Ponzi scheme from a victim’s perspective
  • Johnny Depp and the Vanderbilt family

There’s much more but that’s a good taste of what to expect. Here’s one of the index pages from the back of the book:

financial scams index page

Where else can you find a book that combines The Chappelle Show, Nicolas Cage, Leonardo Da Vinci, Tracy Chapman, Charles Darwin, Johnny Depp, Jim Chanos, Russell Crowe, Al Capone, Michael Crichton and Robert Cialdini?

And that’s just the Bs, Cs, and Ds!

Looks good, right?? :)

And then here’s the more formal summary of it off his site:

Don’t Fall For It explores some of the biggest financial frauds and most successful charlatans, scammers, and hucksters of all-time. These real-life stories include anecdotes about how these frauds were carried out and discussions of what can be learned from them.

Sharing lessons that apply to business, money management, and investing, this compelling book answers questions such as: Why do even the most intelligent among us fall for financial scams? What makes fraudsters successful? Why is it often harder to stay rich than to get rich?

History is full of sensational financial frauds and scams. Enron was forced to declare bankruptcy after allegations of massive accounting fraud, wiping out $78 billion in stock market value. Bernie Madoff, the largest individual fraudster in history, built a $65 billion Ponzi scheme that ultimately resulted in him being sentenced to a 150-year prison term.

It doesn’t matter if you are a farmer looking for a miracle cure or a Hollywood superstar looking to turn a quick profit―no one is immune from getting deceived when money is involved.

More at Amazon: “Don’t Fall For It: A Short History of Financial Scams


Want a copy of this??

Tell me a time YOU got ripped off or lost money or anything else stupid you can think of around money, and you’ll be automatically entered to win, right after we all feel better about ourselves ;)

We’ll keep the giveaway open until Midnight this upcoming Sunday (3/1), and then we’ll announce the winners shortly thereafter. U.S. only, I’m afraid – sorry.

Good luck! Now share those juicy stories with us!! Most of mine relate to almost joining MLM schemes growing up, but unfortunately the trouble didn’t stop there ;) Here’s my full Resume of Fails that I keep updated over the years just to remind myself how much more I have to go, lol…

Back tomorrow with more goodies,

j. money signature

UPDATE: Giveaway now over! Huge congrats to our three winners: Heather, Blair, and Steve! Everyone else look for it at their local library soon :)

Links to books above are Amazon affiliate links

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  1. anon February 26, 2020 at 5:20 AM

    Anybody remember Cyberrebate? I lost about fifty bucks to them when I was a teenager. The weirdest part probably was that I did get my rebate check, cashed it, then about 6 weeks later the bank insisted I needed to come in and give the money back, which made no sense to my teenage brain that assumed they needed to take it up with the company that wrote the check, not with me.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 7:01 AM

      Ouch!! That’s a lot of money for a teen too! Never heard of them before, and now glad for it ;)

  2. Yaacov Rothman February 26, 2020 at 6:32 AM

    How about I tell you about the time I ripped someone off, instead?
    Kidding ;)
    My ripoff story has to be a currency chnager in London. When all was said and done, I was left with 45% (!!!) less than I should have gotten.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 7:09 AM

      Damn!! Was it due to fees or trickery or a combo of both?

  3. Dave February 26, 2020 at 7:25 AM

    I fell for the white van scam. Someone pulls up to you at a stop light says they just finished a job installing XYZ (in my case a home stereo) and they have extra product that already paid for so they’ll give it to you cheap. I took the bait and was out $400. The stereo didn’t even work! Luckily my scammer wasn’t the smartest and gave me a receipt for the product. I went to the address on the receipt and it as a warehouse with all this junk electronics. I told them to give me my money back, they said no so I called the cops. The cop came and listened to my story and then pulled me aside and said, they haven’t technically done anything illegal but my wife fell for a scam like this so I’ll put the fear of God in them and see if we can get your money back. He proceeded to raise hell and talk about coming by the warehouse everyday to make sure they weren’t scamming people and they eventually gave me my money back to get rid of him. The funniest part was the scammer asked for $20 back cause he had to repackage the stereo! When I dropped off the junk stereo I kept the remote as a reminder to never fall for scams, or believe something that is too good to be true.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 12:08 PM


      I can’t believe he gave a receipt with REAL info!!!

      Wow… you def. got lucky there, esp with the cop trying to help you out…

      And now you get a free entry for a book out of it, lol..

      Great story.

  4. SWFL Financial Coaching February 26, 2020 at 7:28 AM

    When I was starting high school, some friends and I started buying baseball cards. I didn’t have that much money at the time, but I spent it all on those cards hoping to get the good ones. I am sure I spent a few hundred dollars, but I have no idea how much I spent. I sold all the cards this fall for $25. Did I get scammed? Meh. I would say it was close to gambling targeted to kids.

    Buyer beware.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 12:12 PM

      What was the rough value of all those cards you just sold??

      I did a lot of trading and buying too back in the day, and now looking to offload them as well for whatever I can get my hands on…

      Thankfully it was a lot of fun though and well worth the energy all those years! :)

  5. SYDNEY Ridder February 26, 2020 at 7:39 AM

    I got scammed by Columbia Records and Tapes as a teen. also, when I was a college student i worked as a temp at a bank and entered credit card application info from baseball games. I was always amazed how many drunk baseball fans would sign up for a credit card at a ball game and then forget about it, or not realize that we had all their information for a credit card and then wonder why they had such a horrible credit rating later, when it actually mattered. Yikes.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 12:13 PM

      Yikes indeed!!

  6. Sean February 26, 2020 at 8:44 AM

    I participated in the Vemma (Verve) phenomenon as a high schooler. One buddy of mine was told how someone he knew was getting crazy rich (of course) selling these different varieties of “healthy” energy drinks. Being too naive at the time, I completely bought into the entire plan of the system which was essentially a pyramid scheme. One person gets three people under them to sell, who get three people under each of them, etc etc. I didn’t end up losing too much money luckily but it definitely taught me a valuable lesson.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 12:14 PM

      A great thing to learn early on for sure!! Hadn’t heard of that one before, but I’m sure the younger me would have been def. tempted as well ;)

  7. Steve February 26, 2020 at 9:16 AM

    MLM – yep, signed up. Paid the start up fee. At least I used the products that came with the start up kit before getting out.
    Trying to be financially responsible when newly married. Got a “combination investment and life insurance” product. Not so much investment after all when I tried to cash out a number of years later.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 12:15 PM

      yup :( most times just good to keep the “investments” separate from the “insurance”. At least if you skew younger.

  8. Lee Stuart February 26, 2020 at 9:43 AM

    Sister and law was trying to get out of a bad relationship. Gave her money for a deposit for a place and instead she just went back to the same bad guy and never got our deposit back. We still aren’t on speaking terms.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 12:16 PM

      That’s unfortunate :(

      Don’t let it stop you from being NICE still to others!!

  9. J February 26, 2020 at 9:48 AM

    When I was about 13 or 14 there was something that I wanted really badly. A friend of mine had a friend who was supposedly known for being able to procure things for cheap and sell them to other students. My friend had purchased something previously from the guy, and went to do so again. This other kid said he could get what I wanted and it would only cost me $20, so I handed over the $20. I was living under the poverty level at the time, and this was almost all of the money from my new part-time job. The kid never produced either the item I was looking for or the one my friend had paid for. I remember my friend being even more steamed than me and trying to get the money back and threaten the kid since he knew where he lived, but that guy was bigger. Lesson learned: even a good intentioned friend can get scammed and you can go down with them.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 12:19 PM

      Yup :( And better at only $20 too than $200 or $20,000! Even though it still stings at the time, especially at that phase of life.

  10. Joe February 26, 2020 at 11:02 AM

    I unfortunately am the proud owner of $100,000 Iraqi Dinar. Maybe one day I will be rolling in the dough but for now it is at least currency for my kids foreign collection.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 12:23 PM

      Something tells me you didn’t spend too much to get that ;)

      1. Joe February 26, 2020 at 7:25 PM

        No not too much but still feel foolish. I should have bought US coins and added something nice to the collection. I think they are selling for more now but nothing worth talking about.

        1. J. Money February 28, 2020 at 4:14 PM

          I have friends who collect world coins/notes who would love that one… Some try to get one from every country in the world!

  11. Heather February 26, 2020 at 2:05 PM

    I wasn’t tricked, but someone tried! A college friend, whom I hadn’t spoken to in years, wanted to meet for lunch. I was so touched that he remembered me and wanted to see me out of nowhere (I’m so gullible) that we met for lunch. Of course, it turned into a pyramid scheme scam, including taking me to his office building nearby where I got the whole spiel from people higher in the pyramid. Instant creep vibes knowing that this wasn’t for me, so I ran. I never talked to him again and was so hurt that THAT was the reason he wanted to see me again. I’m glad I didn’t fall for it.

    1. J. Money February 26, 2020 at 2:53 PM

      And people do this to their CLOSE FRIENDS too! Really sad way to try and earn a few bucks and lose friends in the process… :(

      1. Heather March 2, 2020 at 1:56 PM

        Thanks again for this J$! I’m glad that something good came out of my crappy friendship! LOL

        1. J. Money March 2, 2020 at 4:23 PM

          It’s the small things in life, haha…

  12. Dani February 26, 2020 at 6:03 PM

    So stupid, I almost don’t want to put my real name (but just in case this is THAT entry… LOL) but the book sounds pretty interesting!
    Door to door, a kid was selling magazines in order to go with his group on a trip for something that made sense at the time. Seemed legit, the paperwork and everything was all laminated and looked like a legit fundraiser. He then asked me to make the check out to him; that should have been my Big Red Wakeup Call.
    Good thing I only selected one magazine and was only out 20 bucks. It was that sinking feeling after he left that hit just as soon as the door closed: Ohhhhhhh, I probably shouldn’t have done that…

    1. J. Money February 28, 2020 at 4:15 PM

      Don’t worry – I DID THE SAME!!! for a magazine that – surprise surprise – never showed up :) Prob one of the most common scams..

  13. Liberty February 26, 2020 at 11:26 PM

    When in my mid 20s, my husband and I started a massage therapy small business and I aimed to learn how to run it successfully. So I began attending classes at our city’s small business development center.

    They steered me into registering as an LLC, but only with help from a local lawyer they recommended to set it up (he charged $600, although I talked him down to $400). Only later did I find out it’s perfectly fine to register myself online for maybe $10. Ugh.

    At least I didn’t fall for the SBDC’s advice that only a professional accountant they vetted do our taxes (for $700) or any of their other helpful “recommendations.”

    Scam? Maybe not, but definitely some politics or something going on. And this is taxpayer funded, too. Boo!

    1. J. Money February 28, 2020 at 4:17 PM

      Dang, yeah, some businesses need that stuff but certainly not a one-size-fits-all…

      On the plus side at least you came away with something in the end than the rest who were scammed out of their money :)

  14. Suz February 27, 2020 at 3:30 AM

    While visiting my elderly parents, I discovered that my father, who was in the advanced stages of dementia, was the proud new owner of a whole life insurance policy that neither I nor my mother knew anything about.

    The agent was a family friend and well aware of my father’s condition. I grabbed the papers and stormed into her office. I left with a cancelled policy and a refund check for the $63,000 premium. Still boils my blood to this day.

    1. J. Money February 28, 2020 at 4:18 PM


      Good for you!!!

      People can be real a$$holes out there, man…

  15. Kenneth February 27, 2020 at 11:53 AM

    I fell for the Columbia House and BMG offers of 10 CDs for a Penny!! Then you have to buy 10 more at regular price of $20 each…best part of the deal is you already got the only 10 good ones they had, so you’re buying $200 of CDs you don’t even want. Not so much a scam, but just an annoying buyer beware.

    I almost fell for a legit scam in college. I was attempting to sublease my room in my apartment, a guy sends me USPS Money Orders, and I’m supposed to send him a couple hundred back. The bank cashed them, verifying they were legit. The guy at Western Union asked what I was doing and I filled him in. He wouldn’t let me transfer the money and sent me back to the bank, who had been considering calling me to come back in and verify the transaction. I blame myself first, but the bank second…shouldn’t they have known better than me? I was just some dumb college kid.

    1. J. Money February 28, 2020 at 4:19 PM

      Good thing Western Union at least caught it! And I def. fell for those BMG offers too until my parents caught me :)

  16. Working Mom February 27, 2020 at 2:35 PM

    I spent some money (probably less than $100 when said and done) on a start-up sports app where you could earn prizes for making predictions about the games. I didn’t invest in the creation (thank goodness) but paid monthly to be an affiliate, to tell others about the game and then I’d get a share of any money they spent in-app. The app never really took off and I spent a lot of energy trying to get other people to download it and play it (and asking a few if they wanted to be affiliates). It never really took off and even the person “above me” who had like 6000 in her group quickly quit. Their training videos were from some borrowed conference room. Thankful it wasn’t that expensive of a lesson but took way more time than it was worth.

    1. J. Money February 28, 2020 at 4:21 PM

      Well, some of those apps do blow up at times! Could have gone your way if that one happened to be one of them :) I almost invested in a friend’s company that was legitimately doing well, and then a month later one bad thing happened totally outside of her control and she had to shut it down… It’s all a risk starting or investing in a biz!

  17. Debbie February 27, 2020 at 10:28 PM

    When in college, many of my friends were involved in Mary Kay. Even though I didn’t care much about makeup, they somehow convinced me to be a part of this “amazing” independent consultant journey. I lost about $100 buying the original starter kit, realized my mistake about a week later, and quit after receiving multiple increasingly indignant phone calls from those higher up the chain. It was an important lesson to learn and I refuse to buy anything from MLMs now.

    1. J. Money February 28, 2020 at 4:24 PM

      HELL. YEAH.

      MLM’s are no joke – great job dipping out as soon as you realized the game!

  18. Alan February 29, 2020 at 1:11 PM

    This week I lost $590K in the stock market, the perils of a 99% stock portfolio.

    1. J. Money March 2, 2020 at 7:08 AM

      Thank goodness it only counts when you *withdraw* it!

      (you didn’t withdraw it, did you??)

  19. J. Money March 2, 2020 at 7:11 AM

    ***Giveaway now over!***

    Huge congrats to our three winners: Heather, Blair, and Steve! Everyone else look for it at their local library soon :)