The Most Famous Con Artist, Ranked

Choose the con artist you think is the most famous!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 20, 2024 07:07
Throughout history, the art of deception has been honed by skilled individuals who excel at the con. Knowing who stands out in the secretive world of cons and scams helps to create awareness and inform the public about the tricks and tactics used. This list, driven by community votes, seeks to highlight these individuals based on their notoriety and the complexity of their schemes. By participating in this ranking, you contribute to a broader understanding of scam artistry. Each vote helps to shape a clear picture of how these individuals have impacted society, providing a resource for learning and caution. The list is updated based on your input, ensuring it reflects current public opinion and awareness.

Who Is the Most Famous Con Artist?

  1. 1
    Frank Abagnale Jr.
    Frank_Abagnale.jpg: Marcus JB derivative work: SoWhy · CC BY 2.0
    He is known for posing as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer and successfully passing millions of dollars in fraudulent checks. He was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie "Catch Me If You Can."
    Frank Abagnale Jr. in other rankings
  2. 2
    Bernie Madoff
    Unknown authorUnknown author · Public domain

    Bernie Madoff

    Bernard Madoff
    He orchestrated one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, defrauding thousands of investors out of billions of dollars. He is currently serving a 150-year prison sentence.
    The Bernie Madoff fraud was a massive Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Bernard Madoff, an American financier and former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange. Madoff's fraudulent activities spanned several decades, eventually leading to one of the largest financial frauds in history.
    • Duration: Several decades
    • Amount of fraud: Estimated $65 billion
    • Victims: Thousands of individual investors, financial institutions, and charities
    • Operational period: Approximately 1960s to 2008
    • Method: Ponzi scheme
    Bernie Madoff in other rankings
  3. 3
    He was a skilled con artist who successfully sold the Eiffel Tower twice to unsuspecting buyers in 1925. He also created a fake investment scam known as the "Rumanian Box" that made him a fortune.
    Victor Lustig in other rankings
  4. 4

    Charles Ponzi

    Charles Ponzi
    He is the namesake of the Ponzi scheme, a fraudulent investment scheme where returns are paid to earlier investors using the capital of new investors. Ponzi made millions of dollars in the early 1900s before being caught and jailed.
    The Charles Ponzi scheme is a type of investment fraud in which a non-existent investment opportunity is promised to investors, with returns obtained from using funds received from subsequent investors. The creator of this scheme was Charles Ponzi, an Italian-born swindler. Ponzi's scheme gained notoriety in the early 20th century and has since become synonymous with fraudulent investment schemes.
    • Origin: Developed in the early 20th century
    • Promised returns: High returns in a short period of time
    • Source of returns: Obtained from subsequent investors' funds
    • Non-existent investment: No actual legitimate investment opportunity
    • Pyramid structure: Dependent on recruiting new investors
    Charles Ponzi in other rankings
  5. 5
    He was a confidence man and bank robber who was the father of Frank Abagnale Jr. He was known for posing as a doctor and a lawyer and was eventually caught and jailed.
  6. 6
    He was a Scottish soldier and adventurer who created a fake country in South America called "Poyais" and convinced hundreds of people to invest in it. When they arrived in Poyais, they found only jungle and no civilization.
  7. 7
    He is a notorious con artist who posed as a student at several Ivy League universities and even competed on the cross-country team at Princeton. He was eventually caught and jailed.
  8. 8
    She was the leader of the "Bling Ring," a group of young people who burglarized the homes of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. She was eventually caught and jailed.
  9. 9
    She was a con artist who posed as a psychic and convinced people to give her money for "spells" and "cures." She was eventually caught and jailed.
  10. 10
    He was a master of impersonation who successfully posed as a surgeon, a monk, a prison warden, and a teacher, among other things. He was eventually caught and his life story was turned into a book and movie called "The Great Impostor."

Missing your favorite con artist?


Ranking factors for famous con artist

  1. The complexity and audacity of their schemes
    How elaborate were their cons and how much risk did they take?
  2. The amount of money and/or valuables stolen
    How much financial damage did they cause?
  3. The length of time they were able to carry out their cons
    Did they have a long-term and sustainable operation?
  4. The fame and notoriety they gained
    Did they become a household name and were they able to perpetuate their reputation?
  5. The impact their cons had
    Did their scams have a larger social, cultural, or political influence or leave a lasting legacy?

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most famous con artist. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or con artist is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 214 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each con artist once every 24 hours. The rank of each con artist is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most famous con artist

Con artists have been around for centuries, using their charm and wit to deceive unsuspecting victims. From selling fake goods to elaborate Ponzi schemes, con artists have managed to swindle millions of dollars from their victims. Some of the most famous con artists of all time include Charles Ponzi, who gave his name to the notorious Ponzi scheme, and Frank Abagnale, who impersonated a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer to defraud people. Other well-known con artists include Victor Lustig, who sold the Eiffel Tower twice, and Bernie Madoff, who orchestrated one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history. Despite their illegal activities, con artists have become the subject of fascination and even admiration for some, with many books, films, and TV shows based on their exploits.

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