The Most Popular Fraudsters: Uncovering Notorious Scammers

Choose the fraudsters you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Mar 4, 2024 05:16
Step right up and join the thrilling world of deceit, trickery, and cunning with StrawPoll as we dive into the shadowy realm of the most popular fraudsters! Become an accomplice to their notorious escapades as we rank and unveil the masters of manipulation who have left their indelible mark in history. But be warned, dear reader, for the path is riddled with unexpected twists and turns! Cast your vote to crown the ultimate con artist, or dare to suggest a sly contender that might have slipped under our radar. Will your favorite swindler rise to the top, or will they be outwitted by a fellow imposter? The choice is yours - but choose wisely, for in this game of deception, nothing is as it seems! So, come along and embark on this daring adventure with StrawPoll, where fortune favors the bold, and the art of the con is celebrated in all its wicked glory!

What Are the Most Popular Fraudsters?

  1. 1
    Bernie Madoff
    Unknown authorUnknown author · Public domain

    Bernie Madoff

    Bernard Madoff
    An American financier who orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding thousands of investors out of billions of dollars.
    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
  2. 2

    Charles Ponzi

    Charles Ponzi
    An Italian businessman who invented the Ponzi scheme, a fraudulent investment operation in which returns are paid to earlier investors using the capital of newer investors.
    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
  3. 3
    Frank Abagnale
    Frank_Abagnale.jpg: Marcus JB derivative work: SoWhy · CC BY 2.0

    Frank Abagnale

    Frank William Abagnale Jr.
    A former con artist and imposter who posed as a doctor, lawyer, and pilot, among other professions, and cashed millions of dollars in fraudulent checks before being caught.
    Frank Abagnale is a former con artist and forger who posed as an airline pilot, doctor, and lawyer during the 1960s. He is considered one of the most notorious impostors in history.
    • Aliases: Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams
    • Birthdate: April 27, 1948
    • Nationality: American
    • Crimes: Check fraud, forgery, impersonation
    • Years Active: 1964-1970
    Frank Abagnale in other rankings
  4. 4
    Jordan Belfort
    Ralph Zuranski · CC BY 2.0

    Jordan Belfort

    Jordan Belfort
    A former stockbroker who defrauded investors out of millions of dollars through a "pump and dump" scheme in the 1990s.
    Jordan Belfort, also known as the 'Wolf of Wall Street,' is a well-known American fraudster and former stockbroker. He gained fame for running a high-profile investment scam in the 1990s, which involved manipulating stock prices and defrauding investors out of millions of dollars.
    • Alias: Wolf of Wall Street
    • Nationality: American
    • Occupation: Former stockbroker
    • Notable Scam: Investment fraud in the 1990s
    • Method: Manipulating stock prices
  5. 5

    Kenneth Lay

    Kenneth Lay
    The former CEO of Enron, who oversaw the largest corporate fraud in history, resulting in the company's collapse and the loss of billions of dollars for investors and employees.
    Kenneth Lay was an American businessman, known for being the founder, CEO and chairman of Enron Corporation, which was one of the largest energy trading companies in the world. However, Lay became infamous for his involvement in one of the biggest corporate frauds in history, the Enron scandal.
    • Birthdate: April 15, 1942
    • Nationality: American
    • Company: Enron Corporation
    • Role: Founder, CEO, and Chairman
    • Scandal: Enron scandal
    Kenneth Lay in other rankings
  6. 6

    Jeffrey Skilling

    Jeffrey Skilling
    The former president and CEO of Enron, who was convicted of fraud and insider trading in connection with the company's collapse.
    Jeffrey Skilling was an American businessman and the former CEO of Enron Corporation, which was one of the largest energy trading and utilities companies. Skilling was involved in one of the biggest corporate frauds in history, leading to the collapse of Enron in 2001.
    • Born: November 25, 1953
    • Nationality: American
    • Company: Enron Corporation
    • Position: CEO
    • Fraud Type: Corporate accounting fraud
  7. 7
    Raj Rajaratnam
    Aresterr · CC BY-SA 4.0

    Raj Rajaratnam

    Raj Rajaratnam
    A former hedge fund manager who was convicted of insider trading in 2011, resulting in the largest insider trading case in U.S. history.
    Raj Rajaratnam was a high-profile hedge fund manager who was involved in one of the biggest insider trading cases in the United States. He was the founder of the Galleon Group, a prominent hedge fund firm that managed billions of dollars in assets.
    • Conviction: Rajaratnam was convicted on May 11, 2011, for insider trading and conspiracy.
    • Illegal gains: He made approximately $72 million in illegal gains through insider trading.
    • Wiretap evidence: The case against Rajaratnam heavily relied on wiretap evidence, which was a first in an insider trading trial.
    • Length of prison sentence: He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, the longest sentence ever handed for insider trading.
    • Co-conspirators: Rajaratnam had a network of insiders who provided him with non-public information.
  8. 8

    Allen Stanford

    R. Allen Stanford
    An American financier who ran a fraudulent investment scheme that resulted in the loss of billions of dollars for investors. He was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 110 years in prison.
    Allen Stanford was a prominent American financier and sports sponsor who was convicted of operating a massive Ponzi scheme. He promised high returns to investors through certificates of deposit (CDs) offered by his bank, Stanford International Bank (SIB), based in Antigua. However, the funds were actually used to finance his lavish lifestyle and fund other business ventures.
    • Birth Date: March 24, 1950
    • Nationality: American
    • Fraud Scheme: Ponzi scheme
    • Company Involved: Stanford Financial Group
    • Location of Bank: Antigua
    Allen Stanford in other rankings
  9. 9

    Viktor Bout

    Viktor Bout
    A Russian arms dealer who was convicted of conspiracy to sell weapons to a terrorist organization and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
    Viktor Bout, also known as the 'Merchant of Death,' is a notorious Russian arms dealer. He gained worldwide notoriety for his extensive involvement in illicit arms trafficking activities.
    • Nationality: Russian
    • Alias: Merchant of Death
    • Occupation: Arms dealer
    • Criminal Activities: Illicit arms trafficking
    • Notable Case: Operation Relentless (DEA sting operation)
    Viktor Bout in other rankings
  10. 10

    Martin Shkreli

    Martin Shkreli himself
    A former pharmaceutical executive who was convicted of securities fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison for defrauding investors in his hedge fund and raising the price of a life-saving drug by 5,000%.
    Martin Shkreli is an infamous American fraudster and former pharmaceutical executive. He gained widespread notoriety for his unethical business practices and extravagant public persona.
    • Name: Martin Shkreli
    • Nationality: American
    • Title: Former pharmaceutical executive
    • Notable Actions: Price gouging on life-saving medications, securities fraud
    • Prison Sentence: 7 years
    Martin Shkreli in other rankings

Missing your favorite fraudsters?


Ranking factors for popular fraudsters

  1. Financial impact
    The scale of the fraud committed in terms of financial losses for victims and gains for the fraudster should be considered. Greater monetary damages often attract more attention and notoriety.
  2. Number of victims
    Popular fraudsters are often those who have managed to deceive a large number of people. This can contribute to the perception of their infamy and ability to manipulate others.
  3. Public awareness
    The level of media coverage and public knowledge about the fraudster and their schemes plays a significant role in their popularity. High-profile cases with significant media attention naturally reach more people, leading to greater notoriety.
  4. Longevity of the scheme
    How long the fraudster managed to carry out their schemes before being caught or exposed can be an indicator of the level of sophistication and effectiveness of the fraud.
  5. Creativity and complexity
    The ingenuity and complexity of the fraudster's methods and schemes can make them stand out from others. This can lead to a form of admiration and fascination, contributing to their popularity.
  6. Personal charisma and charm
    Many popular fraudsters are known for their ability to charm and manipulate others. Their personal charisma and ability to gain trust can make them more memorable and fascinating to the public.
  7. Impact on society
    The broader impact of the fraudster's schemes on society, whether it led to policy changes, new regulations, or significant public awareness campaigns, can contribute to the perceived importance and notoriety of the fraudster.
  8. Criminal consequences
    The legal consequences faced by the fraudster, such as trials, convictions, and prison sentences, can add to the public's perception of their infamy. High-profile trials and severe sentencing often draw significant attention.
  9. Continuation after exposure
    Some fraudsters continue to engage in fraudulent activities even after being exposed or imprisoned, which can make them even more notorious and popular.
  10. Cultural impact
    The extent to which the fraudster has infiltrated popular culture through books, movies, documentaries, or other forms of entertainment can contribute to their popularity and lasting legacy.

About this ranking

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


  • 210 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

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

More information on most popular fraudsters

Background Information: Fraudsters have been around for centuries, but with the rise of technology and the internet, fraudulent activities have become more prevalent than ever before. These individuals or groups use deceitful tactics to gain access to personal information or financial assets of unsuspecting victims. In recent years, there have been several high-profile cases of fraudsters who have gained notoriety for their scams and schemes. From Ponzi schemes to identity theft, the methods employed by these fraudsters are varied and complex. Understanding who the most popular fraudsters are can help individuals protect themselves from becoming victims of fraud. At StrawPoll, we have gathered data on the most notorious fraudsters to help our users stay informed and aware of the dangers of fraud.

Share this article