There’s a saying that goes “fake it till you make it” which basically means if you can’t do something or don’t know something, you can still have success by at least lying about it convincingly. It’s oddly optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. And there are real world examples of it apparently working out. But just as often there are cases of people faking it and not making it at all because they really forgot that “convincingly” part. Let’s take a look at some of the worst examples.
10. There Was Once an Attempt to Pass Of Molasses in Haiti as Crude Oil
The world still runs on fossil fuels, despite how bad they are for the environment and the fact the supply is finite. The world uses over 90 million barrels of crude oil every day. Some predictions suggest we have enough crude oil to meet demands until 2050 and then things start getting tight. So it makes sense that we’d want to make use of any new sources we could find, right?
Back in the 1960s, Egyptian-born businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed had managed to convince some British business associates, and those in Haiti, that he was a sheik from Kuwait. He had been contracted by Haitian President Papa Doc to help rebuild Port-au-Prince and, as part of that effort, he tried to convince the British that Haiti had oil reserves.
The British, before willingly investing in Haiti or its oil, needed it analyzed, so they asked Al-Fayed for a sample. The oil they received was not crude of usable quality or even pool quality because it wasn’t crude at all. They tried to pass off low-grade molasses from French plantations as crude oil. The only thing more remarkable than that weak attempt at fraud was the fact it happened in the 60s and Al-Fayed still went on to have a long and prominent career. His current fortune is estimated at just shy of $2 billion.
9. Zoos Have a Bad Habit of Poorly Faking Animals
Many zoos in the world operate on the idea that they can help educate the public about animals and also engage in conservation and protection. Many species would be far worse off than they are if not for zoo-backed breeding programs. So there’s something to temper the ire of things who feel zoos are exploitative and that the animals should be free in the wild. If not for zoos, many of those animals would no longer exist. But that doesn’t mean every zoo is noble all the time.
In 2013, a Chinese zoo made headlines when a lion was easily identified as having a serious issue. Namely, it wasn’t a lion at all, but a dog. The fake lion was a Tibetan mastiff with a furry mane-like haircut. Apparently it was one of several dogs in the park being passed off as other animals. The zoo itself said that the real animals were removed for breeding programs and they just put in the substitutes temporarily, as one does.
This is far from the only case of animal swap fraud, too. An Italian circus that claimed to have pandas was caught out with a pair of chow chow dogs that were dyed black and white.
In Egypt, another zoo was caught trying to pass off a donkey painted black and white as a zebra. Despite the fact that there are pictures of the color smudging on the animal’s face, the director of the zoo refused to admit it was fake.
8. Chinese Media Tried to Pass Off Top Gun as Real Military Footage
The sad truth of the world is that every country needs a military to defend itself because war is a reality and always has been. So many countries take pride in their military might and that includes innovations. New technologies and new weapons to ensure their dominance on the battlefield.
Oftentimes the military will show off new tech as part of propaganda programs meant to either boost morale at home or maybe even subtly intimidate potential enemies. But it only works if it’s legit. Otherwise, it backfires badly, like it did for China in 2011.
Chinese state media aired footage supposedly of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in an air combat exercise. In reality, they were scenes from Tom Cruise’s Top Gun (the original from 1986). In fairness, decades later those scenes are still amazing. But they’re also not Chinese combat exercises. One source claimed that this happens sometimes if an editor is being lazy or if the footage is just too good not to use, but the channel never made any statement that the footage was taken from a movie and not real.
7. Russia Has Called Video Game Footage Real More Than Once
You can decide for yourself if this is better or worse than trying to use footage from a movie as combat footage. In 2018, Russia was called out for reporting on the war in Syria using footage not from the actual war and not even from movie war but from virtual war. In covering the story they included a scene from first-person shooter Arma 3.
More embarrassing for Russia is that this was not the first time it happened. In 2017, they posted an image from AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron claiming it was proof that the US was aiding the Islamic State in Syria. In both instances, Russia claimed it was simply a mistake that the footage was included.
6. A Woman Tried to Use a $1 Million Bill to Shop at Walmart.
There probably aren’t too many people who couldn’t find a good use for a million dollars. Whether you use it to help others or help yourself, there’s always a way to make money do some good. The key to this is making sure it’s real money.
In 2004, a woman in Georgia tried to go shopping at Walmart with a $1,000,000 bill. She attempted to purchase just under $2,000 worth of stuff and fully expected her $998,000 in change. She had two more of the bills on her when police picked her up.
The woman said her estranged husband, who collects coins, gave her the bills and that you “can’t keep up with the US Treasury,” in regards to why she may have thought they were real. She said she never tried to pass it off as real at all, despite the cashier saying the woman asked for change. She ended up being charged with forgery.
5. A New Hampshire Drive Tried to Pass Off a Cigarette Box as a State Inspection Sticker
In New Hampshire your vehicle needs to pass a state safety and emissions inspection to be legal on the road. You get a sticker to put in your window that proves you’ve been inspected. However, some people either forget to do this or maybe they just don’t pass inspection. It’s unclear which was the case with a driver who tried to pass off a fraud as the real deal back in 2019.
Making a fake sticker may not be that hard to do if you put in some effort but this driver did not. Instead, he wrote some numbers on a box of Camel cigarettes and put that on the car, maybe hoping no one would notice the whole Camel background.
Regardless of their expectations, police did notice, and the driver was cited for it.
4. Would-Be Pot Dealers Tried to Pretend Vegetables Were Marijuana
Now that marijuana is legal in a number of places you don’t hear quite as much about crimes related to sale and use of it, but they do still happen. It’s unlikely many like this story from 2016 will happen again, but you never know.
In this case, a pair of men selling pot were involved in an assault after their would-be customer realized he wasn’t buying weed from them at all. They were trying to pass off shredded vegetables as marijuana. When the cat, or maybe cabbage, was out of the bag they hit the buyer with a BB gun and stole his money.
3. Scammers Tried to Commit Insurance Fraud with iPad Made of Ice
Fraud is a dicey game to play and there are many systems in place to detect it at pretty much every level. Committing postal fraud, for instance, is not an easy task at all. And if you were to pull it off, you’d have to do a much better job than the guy who tried to defraud the UK Postal Service in an iPad scam.
The plan was simple and not very good. The scammer filled a box with ice that weighed as much as an iPad. They’d take it to the post office and have it insured as an iPad with the weight of the packaging backing up the claim. Then the ice would melt, and when the empty package was received later, they could claim it was stolen in transit and claim the $4,000 the packages had been insured for.
There were several issues with this scam. First, the guy showed up wet from the already melting ice. He said it was rain, but it wasn’t raining. Then he claimed he couldn’t remember his return address. An hour later, postal employees noticed water pooling around the package and investigated, discovering it was just a box of ice.
The package was delivered knowing full well what was going on and as soon as an insurance claim was filed, the man and an accomplice were charged with fraud.
2. Chinese Media Posted a Story About Aircraft Carriers That Included Battlestar Galactica Imagery
We already saw Chinese state media play with Top Gun footage claiming it was real, but things didn’t end there. And give that earlier one credit for at least using footage from a highly regarded film that used real pilots and real jets to make convincing action sequences. This story has less going for it.
In 2013, the Japanese language version of a Chinese media site ran a story about trends in the design of aircraft carriers showing off what the future had in store. While the article covered a variety of aspects on technology and advances, the images that were included made use of a design schematic from Battlestar Galactica. Another image was just a concept piece for a floating city by a Dutch designer. There was no reason given this time around or whether or not this was also just chalked up to a mistake.
1. A Man Sold Crack to An Undercover Cop That Turned Out to Be Crushed Pop Tarts
Dealing drugs is a risky business at the best of times, but especially when you get caught up by undercover cops who can use the evidence of the deal to get you prosecuted. So what happens if the evidence isn’t technically of a drug deal?
A North Carolina man was arrested in 2014 after arranging to sell crack to an undercover officer. Instead, he smashed a Pop Tart in a bag and sold that to the cop. The cop tested it and found no traces of drugs but they did arrest him two months after the deal.
Turns out selling fake crack, even if it’s tasty, is still illegal and he was charged with both selling and creating a counterfeit controlled substance.