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Book Review: Duped! True Stories of the World’s Best Swindlers

You cannot tell a lie.

Yep, you and young George Washington both learned a long, long time ago that lying was wrong. Not only did it hurt people, but it also got you into trouble. And no matter how much you tried to cover things up, no matter how “white” your little lie was, you always got caught in the end.

Product book duped - book review: duped! True stories of the world's best swindlersAnd punished.

In the new book “Duped!” by Andreas Schroeder, illustrations by Rémy Simard, you’ll see how some grown-up liars were caught, too. The only difference was that their lies were whoppers!

Without a doubt, as long as there have been people, there have been liars and cheaters. Scamming goes so far back in history that you can almost imagine one caveman trying to cheat another caveman out of his rock. But today’s question is, how do smart people get caught up in dumb scams?

Andreas Schroeder says that the reason is sometimes greed.  Getting a too-good-to-be-true deal is a big motivator and in this book, he tells the story of some of history’s most famous swindles.

Scams can catch the eye of just one person, or they can affect the whole world. In 1971, for instance, everyone around the globe was abuzz because, supposedly, the Filipino government had “stumbled across” a group of people who were living in caves, just like their Stone-Age ancestors did.

The whole world was captivated by the gentle, quiet Tasaday people. Journalists couldn’t wait to visit them. Anthropologists begged to study them. But the Tasaday incident was a big, political, expensive scam!

And then there was the Nazi scam that duped an entire nation’s economy with fake money made by concentration camp workers. Even bankers were fooled by the cash, which was meant to ruin the British economy. In the end – fourteen years after World War II was over – the truth came out. By then, though, it was too late to do anything about it and the fake money remained in circulation.

Sons have scammed fathers.  Contestants have duped rivals. And one radio producer scammed the whole country on a Halloween weekend!

You’ve always taught your kids that lying is bad – and it still is – but you know it can be awfully entertaining, too. “Duped!” will show you why…

Starting with the kind of spam scam you found in your email this morning, then moving back and forth throughout history, author Andreas Schroeder presents several dirty, deceitful doozies that have been pulled on gullible (and not-so-gullible) people over the years. I enjoyed reading about what went into the production of these con games because learning about them helps to avoid being caught up in them.

I also liked to see that part of “Duped!” is in comic-book format. Those illustrations by Rémy Simard serve to liven up each tale, which gives even the most reluctant of readers a reason to check this book out.

If your child thinks history is dull and boring, prove him wrong with “Duped!”. For 7-to-13-year-olds, this book is fun to read. No lie.

Written by Andreas Schroeder, illustrations by Rémy Simard.
c.2011, Annick Press, $12.95 U.S. and Canada, 157 pages

a man carrying two children

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