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Frauds And Foolies
A hoax (or foolie) is something intended to deceive or defraud. A fraud is trickery or deceit aimed specifically at dishonestly gaining wealth (The Con is a subtrope of this) or an advantage. And a forgery is simply something fake passed off as being genuine.

The reasons for these may be many—anything from a harmless jest to a financial scam to provoking an attack on a person or group

Frauds and foolies, unsurprisingly, make excellent plot material—anything from being a short-term part of the plot to the basis of an entire story.

Here are the differences:
  • The Foolie (aka The Hoax) is a deception that is usually done For the Lulz, but may also be done for revenge (Atlanta Nights was to gain revenge on—and expose—PublishAmerica) or to whip up fervor for or against a group (such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). Also known as a "foolie".
  • The Fraud is deception for power or money. Subtropes include:
    • Landslide Elections where the "election" is a sham perpetrated for political power.
    • The Con, a fraud perpetrated in the pursuit of wealth. Posing as an heir is this type of fraud.

Compare April Fools' Day, when hoaxes and pranks are pulled for (usually) harmless fun.


  • The Hoax is a rather loosely Based on a True Story dramatization of Clifford Irving's fake Howard Hughes autobiography.
  • In Shattered Glass, another film based on a true story, Stephen Glass spends years making stories up for The New Republic until some elementary fact-checking by reporters from Forbes exposes him as a fabulist.
  • F for Fake, the last film directed by Orson Welles, is a documentary about art forger Elmyr de Hory, which grew into a meditation about the nature of fakery and hoaxes after de Hory's biographer, Clifford Irving, was revealed to be a hoaxer as well (see The Hoax above).
  • The 1985 film Clue by Paramount Pictures has extortionist Mister Boddy invite six victims to his mansion, wherein a series of murders are committed. The hoax is that the victims think they're getting a chance to silence those who put them under Boddy's thumb in the first place. In reality, Boddy's master plan is to inveigle his targets in complicity to murder so that he can squeeze them further.
  • The original Springtime for Hitler in The Producers was an attempt to defraud investors in a play.

  • No examples yet!

Live-Action TV
  • In Vanishing Act from May 1986, Detective Rudameyer engineers a brilliant hoax upon Harry Kenyon in order to compel Harry to reveal the reason he murdered his wife and made it look like an traffic accident.
  • The last episode of the second series of Sherlock is a grand hoax perpetrated by Jim Moriarty to discredit Sherlock.
  • Time Team's dig at Llygadwy revealed a long standing archaeological fraud and foolie, dating from the late 19thC to at least the 1980s (and probably later) where multiple people had been creating fake archaeology. This included the Victorian and Edwardian follies, and the much more recent theft and import of ceremonial swords from Switzerland (losing their correct archaeological context) and reburial in the UK (discovered after the fraudster buried the bronze age swords on top of modern barbed wire).


Web Original
  • The now-defunct Bob Lancaster Gallery of Unusual Playing Cards displayed something called The Slf-Lirpa Deck, which was a set of invisible playing cards. For years, people thought the cards were real, not realizing that the name of the company that made them reads "April Fools" in reverse—nor that it was posted on April 1.

  • Clockwork Game is the story of a hoax—specifically, a chess-playing machine.

Real Life
  • The Calgary Sun ran an article about some pet fee that City Hall was planning to implement, causing loud outcries against City Hall. It was a prank.
  • In the 1950s, the BBC had several phone calls after Panorama's spaghetti tree hoax from people wondering whether they could grow their own.
  • I, Libertine was a "book" that was concocted by radio announcer Jean Shepherd to highlight the flaws in how bestseller lists were being compiled. Sure enough, he and his listeners successfully got a non-existent book by a non-existent author on the New York Times Bestseller list. By the time the hoax was openly admitted, the compilers of lists had already been made to look like fools.
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a document purportedly describing a scheme of world domination by the Jews, and has been used as a warrant for antisemitism. It is a hoax first published in Russia in 1903, and revealed as a hoax (and a heavily plagiarized one) in 1921. Didn't stop Those Wacky Nazis from using it, though. Even more disheartening, it is still being used today by some Muslims to justify their hatred for Israel and Jews.
  • The Great Moon Hoax. In 1835 the New York newspaper The Sun published 6 articles claiming that the astronomer Sir John Herschel had discovered life and civilization on the Moon.
  • The Dreadnought Hoax was a practical joke by Horace Cole, in which he disguised several friends (including Virginia Woolf) as Abyssinian Princes and visited the HMS Dreadnought. The Royal Navy was completely fooled, and naval officers were NOT happy when they found out.
  • The Piltdown Man could be considered a fraud perpetrated in pursuit of scientific prestige—if it could be conclusively proven who the hoaxer was.
  • The Cardiff Giant was a statue that was marketed as a petrified man (and thus a fraud). Then a rival showman made a copy and presented it as the real Cardiff Giant (thus a forgery of a fraud).

Dirty Social TricksThe PlanCon Man
The ForgeryCriminalsGang Bangers
The FixerCon ManHigh School Hustler

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