Con Artist Victor Lustig: Sold Eiffel Tower & Magic Money Scams

Discover the story of history's greatest con artist who sold the Eiffel Tower twice and built a money-making machine. Learn to avoid scams.
Con artist

Con artists are skilled at selecting victims with long-proven methods. One of the most notorious con artists in history is Count Victor Lustig, who managed to sell the Eiffel Tower twice and created the Magic Money Maker, a machine that could duplicate money. Let’s dive into his story and learn some valuable lessons from his exploits.

The Magic Money Maker Scam

Lustig’s most famous scam was the Magic Money Maker. He would find a target, gain their trust using clever ruses, and then engineer a situation where the mark would discover his machine and be eager to know how it worked. After much persuasion, Lustig would finally agree to demonstrate the device by borrowing a large denomination bill from the mark.

He would insert the money into the machine and turn a crank, pulling the bill inside. The process would take six hours, during which the mark would happily spend their time at dinner or playing cards. Upon their return, they would find two perfect thousand-dollar bills in the machine. The mark would then accompany Lustig to the bank to make sure both were real, but they would need to cash the bills separately since both had the same serial number.

Naturally, the mark would ask how much for the machine, and Lustig would sell it for an incredibly high price, ensuring the new owner could apparently repeat the procedure once Lustig left town. The six-hour delay was a stroke of genius. It added an air of authenticity to Lustig’s story and gave him time to get out of town before his mark was left with an empty, worthless wooden box. The machine could only duplicate one bill at a time, so after ejecting the bills Lustig had pre-loaded in the machine, the ruse would soon be obvious.

Victims’ Shame and Reluctance to Report

Many con games rely on the shame of victims or their reluctance to discuss being deceived. Lustig’s victims went home and licked their wounds while he continued to sell boxes to unwary gamblers and businessmen. He successfully sold Paris’s most famous landmark twice using the same technique. The first round of victims never reported the crime, so Lustig bought a ticket back to Paris, found another mark, and repeated the con.

However, he wasn’t always so lucky. One of his previous victims pursued him across America and finally caught up with him in Chicago. Unfazed by the confrontation, Lustig convinced the victim he was not operating the box correctly and returned his money to him in counterfeit cash, which later led to his arrest by the Secret Service. After a failed escape attempt, Lustig ultimately died in jail.

Lessons to Learn from Lustig’s Story

The lesson to learn from Lustig’s story is that there is a con game out there with your name on it if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Con artists are skilled at selecting victims with long-proven methods. They weed out troublemakers and identify one key factor that makes all of us susceptible to a scam.

The classic line, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” has been heard countless times. Yet, people still fall for obvious schemes. Anyone can fall for a scam, no matter who they are or how smart they think they are.

Con artists use powerful, convincing stories to prove their scams are legit. They no longer rely on magic props to deceive potential victims. In fact, even when a scam doesn’t work, potential marks really want it to be true.

The question is, how do people keep falling for such obvious schemes? The answer lies in the fact that con artists use a long-proven method to select their victims. They identify one key factor that makes all of us susceptible to a scam. This one piece of information is what a con artist might use to deceive a potential victim.

In conclusion, being aware of the tactics used by con artists like Count Victor Lustig can help you avoid falling prey to scams. Remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stay vigilant and always question the legitimacy of any seemingly incredible opportunity.