5. Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

In 1925, Czech con artist Victor Lustig sold the Eiffel Tower to a scrap metal dealer. Bringing together six dealers, he posed as a Deputy Director General of Mail and Telegraphs, explaining that the French government wanted to demolish the Eiffel Tower because it was too expensive to keep up. To keep the fake project a secret, Lustig swore the men to secrecy because the government was not going to make a public announcement.

He asked each company to submit bids for a contract and he would choose one. Lustig ended up pulling one contractor aside and told him if he gave him a $100,000 bribe, the contract would be his. The contractor did so, and Lustig fled Paris with the money. None of the contractors reported him.

Six months later, Lustig returned to Paris and pulled the exact same stunt but with five new scrap metal dealers. He conned a second dealer out of $100,000. Lustig was reported this time, but he had already fled to the United States where he continued to pull many more cons, one famously on Al Capone which earned him $5000.

In 1936, Lustig was finally arrested on counterfeit charges and was sentenced to 11 years in prison where he died in 1947. However, before he died, he wrote the famous Ten Commandments for aspiring con artists:

  1. Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a con-man his coups).
  2. Never look bored.
  3. Wait for the other person to reveal any political opinions, then agree with them.
  4. Let the other person reveal religious views, then have the same ones.
  5. Hint at sex talk, but don’t follow it up unless the other fellow shows a strong interest.
  6. Never discuss illness, unless some special concern is shown.
  7. Never pry into a person’s personal circumstances (they’ll tell you all eventually).
  8. Never boast. Just let your importance be quietly obvious.
  9. Never be untidy.
  10. Never get drunk.