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Mock Millionaire

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"Veblen thought and wrote this book in the United States. Between us, the phenomenon of the leisure class is more serious. Except for the very poor, every Argentine pretends to belong to that class. As a child, I have known families during the hot summer months living secretly in their own houses, to make people believe that they vacationed in a hypothetical summer village or in the city of Montevideo. One woman confided to me her intention to decorate the hall with a signed painting, certainly not by virtue of calligraphy."
Jorge Luis Borges prologue of Thorstein Veblen's Theory Of The Leisure Class.

A Mock Millionaire is an ordinary person who is pretending to be someone who's rich, powerful, or otherwise highly influential. Maybe he's part of The Con selling a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme, or an infatuated beau pursuing a Spoiled Sweet gal, or caught up in a Prince and Pauper or "Fawlty Towers" Plot. Whatever the reason, expect the Mock Millionaire to play the charade up with displays of Conspicuous Consumption, casual references to exotic places, lots of Money to Throw Away, name-dropping the rich and powerful, an Unlimited Wardrobe complete with monocle, and maybe "borrowing" a Cool Car or Big Fancy House.

Contrast with King Incognito as well as the more general Secretly Wealthy. Compare Fake Aristocrat. See also Princess for a Day and If I Were a Rich Man. Sister trope of Penny Among Diamonds.


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  • Jose Cuervo did an ad about "living the high life", which was all about this trope.
  • The Ohio Lottery has done a series of ads featuring people enjoying relatively simple pleasures as if they're really rich, having won something like $250-$500 on a scratch ticket. The tagline is "It doesn't take a lot to feel like a million."

    Anime & Manga 
  • One of the murderers in Case Closed pretends to be the daughter of a rich family so that her friends like her. She works very hard to personally afford to take them hiking, camping, and even to Hawaii. Turns out her friends and her boyfriend know, are only using her for her money, and are planning to suck her dry. She ends up killing her so-called 'best friend' and blames it on her boyfriend.
  • Kaby Melon in Fairy Tail desperately wants someone to burn a certain book, so he promises Natsu and Lucy a lot of money that he doesn't have. In order to seem like he actually has money, he dresses in fine clothes and borrows his friend's huge mansion. However, Natsu reveals the act by realizing that Kaby's smell and the mansion's smell are different.
  • In Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, Hayabusa and his father pretend to be a rich family for the latter's date with a well-to-do woman, and keep the illusion by renting suits and eating at a French cuisine restaurant.
  • Koujirou Sasahara from Nichijou wears a Classy Cravat, puts on airs about being his family's eldest son, and in general acts like an Upper-Class Twit. He's actually the eldest son of a family of farmers, which explains why his beloved pet is a goat that he rides to school.
  • Ayame in Silver Spoon is from a perfectly ordinary family who just got rich by some circumstances, but she acts like an arrogant Ojou, with all the associated tropes. She acts normally with her parents though.
  • Virgin Night: Hiroki tries to pass himself off as a scion of a family of business bigwigs in "Nadeshiko Innocence", because he's so utterly ashamed of the fact that he's nearly the polar opposite (it may be implied in the beginning that he's a Rōnin, but he might also or instead be a Starving Artist in training, given all the sketches of Nanako), and can't bring himself to "afflict" Nanako with the truth.
  • The World God Only Knows: Mio is well-known to be the pampered daughter of a rich businessman with her own butler... or at least she was until her father died and her family lost everything. This is not very good for her financial, or emotional, well being.

    Comic Books 
  • After a childhood on the streets was made her official backstory, Catwoman's knack for showing up at high-class soirees became this. The finer details vary: Either Selina is rich but it's from her criminal career rather than Old Money, she's infiltrating the event with a fake/stolen identity, or a combination of the two.
  • There's a Will Eisner comic depicting a well-dressed couple on a dinner date at an expensive restaurant. When they go to their respective homes at the end of the date, each are revealed to be Mock Millionaires, and obviously unaware of each other's lack of wealth.
  • Mickey Mouse Comic Universe: In a comic version of Mickey's Rival, Mortimer turns out to be one of these.
  • In Starfire's Revenge, Supergirl villain Derek Ames pretends to be some rich guy in order to seduce, steal and/or kill his targets.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one FoxTrot story arc, Jason, after receiving a sudden windfall and realizing that, combined with the rest of his savings, he now has the equivalent of over a million Turkish lira, starts acting like a millionaire for a while. He drops the act after spending his entire stash.
  • In one Sherman's Lagoon arc, in order to impress his classmates in a high school reunion, Sherman has Hawthorne help him pose as a CEO. Things go sour when Hawthorne takes the ruse too far and starts selling fake stock for a fake company.
    Sherman: So now I'm going to fake jail?
    Hawthorne: Here's where the reality kicks in.

    Film — Animation 
  • Aladdin's first wish in Disney's Aladdin amounted to this, though it might be a borderline case. After all, depending on how the Genie's magic worked, Al really is a millionaire after his wish is granted.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Brain Donors, Ambulance Chaser Roland T. Flakfizer plays the role when he inspects the opera house before the premiere.
    (talking on cellular phone) "How did the market close? Uh-huh. Well, roll over my amalgamated, split my utilities, and double my capital venture overlays. Now call me in an hour, and tell me what the hell I'm talking about!"
  • A Christmas Horror Story: Clarice's dad runs a big company but admits that it went bankrupt a while ago and he's been struggling to keep up appearances out of fear that he'll lose his wife’s love.
  • In City Lights, the Tramp uses his friendship with the Millionaire to allow his (blind) love interest to believe he is rich.
  • In getting into character in Cypher, Morgan begins effecting traits of a globe-trotting playboy; wearing finer clothes, indulging in top-label scotch and cigarettes, referring to exotic locations he's traveled to on his yacht. Subverted, as those are all qualities of his true personality, a genuine billionaire.
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Janet Colgate is seemingly a wealthy socialite (and the heir to a toothpaste company owner) who gets picked as the Mark for the fleecing challenge between Lawrence and Freddy. However, she turns out to be an ordinary tourist who won her vacation in a slogan contest and is only playing the socialite to fit in better, and has no money. However, she turns out to actually be an even more cunning con artist who's playing them for all they've got.
  • A variation occurs in Fitzwilly, where Miss Woodworth is unaware she's a Mock Millionaire.
  • Gone with the Wind has Scarlett trying to pass off a set of curtains as an expensive gown in order to impress Rhett Butler.
  • The Great Outdoors: Roman is a wealthy investment broker who grates on the nerves of his humble, middle-class brother-in-law Chet. In the end, it's revealed that Roman lost all of his money in a bad investment and has been keeping it a secret from his family. His goal throughout the vacation was to hit up Chet for money.
  • Essential in the plot of Spanish movie Hay que educar a papá. High-Class Glass -wearing Count De Ronda is discovered to be a con man.
  • It is the plot of the french Movie Jet Set. A poor actor pretends to be an Italian prince to hang out with movie stars. Some of the rich people he hang out with discover the truth, but choose to help him anyway.
  • Jurassic Park III: Paul Kirby presents himself to Dr. Grant as the multi-millionaire head of 'Kirby Enterprises' and would be happy to pay him any price for accompanying him and his wife for a flight over Isla Sorna. The company is actually a simple hardware store (Kirby Paint and Tile Plus), and he tricked Grant to find their missing son Eric.
    Dr. Grant: That's beautiful. Not only are we stuck on the most dangerous island on the planet, we're not even getting paid.
  • Lady Bird: When Lady Bird starts making friends in The Beautiful Elite, she pretends that her family is also wealthy and passes off a local mansion as her home.
  • The Frank Capra film Lady for a Day has a woman named "Apple Annie" who has been telling her daughter in Spain that she's part of New York's high society. When her daughter arrives with her fiancé, the son of a Spanish count, Annie has to be a genuine Mock Millionaire and Princess for a Day to avoid derailing the engagement.
  • Played with in Last Holiday, where the character played by Queen Latifah is spending her entire savings on one amazing European bucket list vacation before she dies, but the other resort guests think she's a very rich American. She never tried to pass herself off this way, but the hotel staff and patrons assumed it. She's not actually sick.
  • The Last Summer: Chad and Reece are mistaken for commodities traders when they go to a bar wearing their suits form a wedding rehearsal dinner and mingle there, enjoying the respect.
  • In Laughter in Paradise, Simon Russell lives the life of a playboy, but is really on his uppers.
  • In Lord of War, budding Arms Dealer Yuri pretends to be a millionaire to impress his supermodel wife-to-be. Of course, when his business takes off, his wealth ends up "surpassing the lies about [his] wealth".
  • The Mask of Zorro has Antonio Banderas' character, a bandit, posing as a Spanish aristocrat, with the original Zorro pretending to be his valet.
  • The movie Metropolitan is about a group of young upper-class Manhattanites blithely passing through the gala debutante season. They are stirred by the arrival of Tom, a Mock Millionaire who's actually a middle-class boy.
  • The 1965 Disney movie The Monkeys Uncle has various students at Midvale College competing in a contest for a flying machine in exchange for a wealthy donor to give a huge payday to the college. After various misadventures, they finally do it...only for the movie to end with the "donor" running from men in white coats trying to drag him back to a mental asylum as Midvale isn't the first college sent into chaos over his "contests."
  • In Nothing Sacred, Wally is conned by a shoe-shine man who claims to be the Sultan of Mazapan.
  • Appears in Ocean's Eleven and its sequels:
    • From the first movie, Saul passes himself as "Limon Zerga,", an international arms dealer. He's referred to as such in Rusty's pre-heist plan as "the Boesky," a con-man's term for someone pretending to be a wealthy man with inside information.
    • Done again in Ocean's Thirteen with "The Amazing" Yen pretending to be a Chinese billionaire named Mr. Weng. When the Big Bad's assistant points out that Weng doesn't come up on their standard background checks, Weng's assistant (Linus) points out that they work hard to keep his name out of such checks. On a dare, Linus suggests that Mr. Bank try to build something larger than two stories in China's Tianjin province and see if Mr. Weng's name comes up then. They maintain the image of a wealthy Chinese industrialist by having "Mr. Weng" prefer pai gow to other games.
  • Paradise Beach: A gang of robbers steal a fortune, flee France and settle in Thailand where they live like princes. However, one of them did not make it out of the country and spent 15 years in a French prison. Once released, he joins his old comrades in Thailand and wants his share of the loot. The other robbers now have to explain to him that they do not really have any money and are just pretending to live the high life. They lost all the money during a tsunami that devastated the area and only survive because one of them married into a prominent local family. They appear to own restaurants, night clubs and golf courses but are really just managers and pay a lion share of their income to the patriarch of the family in exchange for protection.
  • In the movie Penelope (2006), "Max Campion," the child of a wealthy Blue Blood family that gambled away the family fortune, is recruited by a tabloid reporter to court Penelope, the reclusive daughter of a wealthy family who is secretly cursed. Her curse can only be lifted when she is accepted "by one of her own," so her parents are soliciting other blue bloods as prospective husbands and Lemon (The reporter) figures a broke blue blood can get in and will need the offered reward. It is revealed, however, that "Max" is actually Johnny, broke musician and gambler who was sitting next to Max Campion at the poker table when Lemon showed up for the recruitment.
  • Poverty and Nobility: A nobleman wants to marry the daughter of a Nouveau Riche commoner, but his father the aristocrat refuses to agree to his son marrying out of his class. But the son still wants to marry his commoner girlfriend and wants to impress her Nouveau Riche father, so he hires a couple of dirt-poor families to dress up in borrowed clothes and pretend to be his aristocrat Old Money family. Comic hijinks ensue.
  • Rush Hour 2:
    • Detective Carter follows a Hong Kong crime boss onto a yacht party. He hits on an attractive woman by claiming to be the owner of the yacht.
    • Later in the movie, Carter and Lee are at a Las Vegas casino in pursuit of counterfeiters. To distract the guests from Lee's attempts to sneak into the back, Carter begins gambling wildly and waving bundles of (counterfeit) money.
  • In The Secret of My Success, Michael J Fox is a lowly office worker who pretends to be a corporate executive.
  • A similar vein was explored in Six Degrees of Separation with Will Smith. Smith poses as the illegitimate son of a celebrity and while he does not pretend to be rich himself he implies that his father is paying for his education at an exclusive school and that he knows all the right people in upper class society.
  • In Some Like It Hot, Joe pretends to be the owner of the Shell company, even going so far as to host a dinner date on an actual millionaire's yacht to convince Marilyn Monroe's character Sugar to fall in love with him.
  • In The Towering Inferno Harlee Claiborne (Fred Astaire) plays an elderly conman trying to swindle a rich widow by pretending to be rich as well. She reveals that she knows, but wants to marry him anyway- then she dies in the titular inferno.
  • Jack in James Cameron's Titanic (1997) gives this a try.
  • Withnail and I: "We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here and we want them now!" "We are not drunks, we're multi-millionaires". One of the least convincing examples of this trope.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Sameer likes to make naive people think he's someone important, like a prince.
  • In Young Lady Chatterley II, Beechum hires an actor to pose as a wealthy French count to romance Cynthia to keep her distracted from his scheme to steal the estate out from underneath her. The actor eventually comes clean when he realises exactly how underhanded Beechum is being.

  • A couple of jokes from the Philogelos (that's an ancient Greek collection) involve paupers pretending to be wealthy to their girlfriends, making the trope Older Than Feudalism.

  • The Mark Twain story The £1,000,000 Bank-Note — a poor American traveler in London is given this by two men as part of a bet. He is expected to return it in a month. By presenting it and asking for change, he obtains a reputation as an eccentric American millionaire, obtains credit, and becomes rich in the end through investments. This story was adapted into the movie The Million Pound Note starring Gregory Peck.
  • Eve in Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor does this after undergoing Riches to Rags. She keeps dressing like a wealthy noble when in public. In her private life, she lives in a cheap apartment, uses fire magic to save money on heating and eats cheap food like pasta. She's even forced to temporarily take a second job as a hostess to make ends meet.
  • Íñigo, the narrator of Alatriste, describes how this became commonplace in Spain in the late Golden Age, especially in Madrid, as Spain's wealth from the New World (which it mostly pissed away on The Eighty Years' War, other debts, and mass corruption) encouraged a vain arrogance among the Spanish people, such that it became unfashionable to be seen involved in actual work like a commoner.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, the Count gets a disreputable old soldier and Benedetto, a career criminal, and son of one of Dantes' enemies to pose as father and son and pretend to be wealthy Italian aristocrats. He introduces them to Dangler and family.
  • Discworld
    • Reacher Gilt from Going Postal might qualify. Though he conducts himself in a very lavish manner, throwing grand parties and dining at expensive restaurants, it might all be part of his masquerade as a Corrupt Corporate Executive. He himself teaches that wealth is an illusion, and stole the Grand Trunk through embezzlement and accounting tricks. It's never clear how much actual liquidity he actually has; in the end, when he is caught by Vetinari after fleeing the city, he's clearly disheveled and impoverished.
    • Granny Weatherwax in Maskerade definitely does. To try to get into the opera house, Nanny Ogg uses the proceeds from her book to make Granny look like a lady. Granny just acts like herself, and her overbearing, towering arrogance is enough to intimidate everyone into not questioning it.
  • Played with in The Great Gatsby - Gatsby is rich, but new rich. He pretends to come from old money, but the sheer excess of his life and his ambiguous past makes people think he's not actually rich either.
  • Hondo Ohnaka's Not-So-Big-Score: One of the passengers Hondo successfully kidnaps is lying about how wealthy he is and can only afford to give eight cases of alcohol as a ransom.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries: In The PMS Murder, it's revealed that while club member Ashley Morgan appears rich, she's actually up to her eyeballs in debt.
  • Moll Flanders: The title character attracts a wealthy husband by pretending to have a vast inheritance that she is too humble to talk about it. Whenever he inquires about it, she insists that she's less wealthy than he expects, but he persists in wooing her. Over time, his expectations of her fortune decline and his admiration of her increases, so that when she finally admits that she has no money whatsoever, he still wants to marry her.
  • "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant is about a woman who borrows a friend's diamond necklace for a party to pretend she's well-to-do but then loses it and spends the rest of her life trying to pay for a new one she and her husband bought to replace the lost one, only to be later told the one she lost was fake.
  • In Orca, Vlad discovers that the recently-deceased Orca lord Fyres was one of these — perpetually conning people with the illusion of financial success to encourage them to do business with him, and thus creating financial success... but always playing the illusion too far until it inevitably crashes. Fyres' most recent endeavors? Banking and real estate, for which even the Imperial treasury was into him.
  • The original Puss in Boots has the cat Puss convince the king his master is a nobleman.
  • In Rebel Angels, Ann and Felicity try to convince everyone else that they have become royalty.
  • Rebuild World: Due to Sheryl wearing an extremely expensive dress Akira gifted her, Katsuya mistakes her for being rich. Sheryl goes along with this to manipulate him for information in a Honey Trap to impress Akira. Preparing to fit in at feasts and parties to increase her connections, Sheryl's Evil Mentor Viola teaches her proper etiquette and composure, along with having her buy more expensive clothes to go with it. This furthers Katsuya's Loving a Shadow impression of her, and ultimately the facade gets used by Inabe to manipulate Katsuya into working for him, saying Sheryl's a ruined patrician being blackmailed by Akira, which contributes to Katsuya's Murder the Hypotenuse Freak Out against him.
  • Jorge Luis Borges’ prologue to Thorstein Veblen's Theory Of The Leisure Class provides a harsh critique of Argentinean Society:
    Veblen thought and wrote this book in the United States. Between us, the phenomenon of the leisure class is more serious. Except for the very poor, every Argentine pretends to belong to that class. As a child, I have known families during the hot summer months living secretly in his house, to make people believe that they vacationed in a hypothetical summer village or in the city of Montevideo. One woman confided to me her intention to decorate the hall with a signed painting, certainly not by virtue of calligraphy.
  • In an O. Henry short story, "Transients in Arcadia", the hero and heroine do this to each other.
  • "Oily" Carlisle, among quite a few other P. G. Wodehouse characters, pulls this as a scam. Several other Wodehouse characters stumble into it as well, such as Sue Brown in the Blandings Castle novels Summer Lightning and Heavy Weather.
  • In his Yorkshire Vet series, James Herriot recalls the case of the well-to-do retired Army officer who moved into Darrowby with his family and opened credit accounts everywhere he could on the strength of being a decorated ex-Major of good family. This included what in today's money would be several thousand pounds worth of vet's fees from Herriot's practice. By the time Darrowby realised it had been shaken down, the family had moved on owing thousands. That's thousands of pounds at 1930's value.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Addams Family, when Lurch's mother comes to visit, he persuades the family to pretend that he is the owner of the mansion and that Gomez is his butler and Morticia is his maid (the rest of the family hid in the cottage because they didn't want to play along). It works a little too well; Lurch gets lost in his role and starts to believe he really is the master of the house.
  • All American: Asher is one of the usual Beverly Hills rich kids who look down on Spencer, a resident of the inner city. In one episode, Asher is pressured into hosting a party at his huge mansion, telling the gang to be careful of things like an expensive car and not make a mess for his parents. During the party, the car accidentally rolls out the driveway and is damaged. As the partygoers leave, Spencer talks to Asher on how he recognizes the man's reaction: "You ain't got no pictures of your family hanging anywhere in this house. You always seem to be forgetting your wallet. And you let everyone else pay for this party. Ain't hard to spot somebody with no money, man." Asher confesses he was rich but his dad lost it all in a bad deal. They've been hiding it from the others so he can stay at his school and he and his father rent out the guest house of the mansion's real owners. Spencer helps Asher get the car fixed before anyone knows and will keep his secret as Asher sighs on how "I don't know how long I can keep this up."
  • The Army Game: In his first appearance in "Enter a Dark Stranger", Dooley receives a series of letters from his family that make it appear that he is from a wealthy family who own a string of hotels in swanky areas of London. This results in the rest of Hut 29, and even Sgt. Snudge, attempting to suck up to him. When the truth comes out (i.e. he is as broke as the rest of them), he claims that the letters were part of a play-by-mail game of Monopoly he was involved in with his family.
  • In the Baywatch episode "Vacation", Guido pretends to be "Count Guido Popadokulous" in order to romance Mrs. Kenilworth, a wealthy middle-aged widow. It backfires when she wants to sleep with him; even after he tells her the truth, she still pursues him.
  • Zig-Zagged in a sketch on The Benny Hill Show which is presented as an old film airing on TV. In the film Benny plays a wealthy man on a cruise ship who falls in love with a wealthy socialite. But it's discovered that he's only a second class passenger! Zagged when it turns out he's really the owner of the cruise line.
  • In Bottom, Richie and Eddie join a dating service, and Richie gets a date with Lady Natasha Letita Sarah Jane Wettesley Olstomsky Ponsonsky Smythe Smythe Smythe Oblomov Dub, Countess of Moldavia. Richie pretends to be an eccentric millionaire with Eddie as his butler.
  • On Bridgerton, Portia plays one of her games to get her daughter engaged to mine owner Jack. After he accepts it, Jack informs Portia that his "mines" are empty and he's penniless. He was actually hoping to marry into a rich family himself but instead, Portia has guaranteed her daughter marries into a poor family, which ruins her own hopes of fortune.
  • Burn Notice:
    • The team themselves use this on a regular basis to con their targets.
    • An episode has a client house-sitting for a millionaire and pretending to own the house to impress his new girlfriend. The deception works just a little too well: he attracts the attention of some kidnappers, who assume anyone living in a house like that can easily obtain 5 million dollars to pay the ransom.
  • Was also explored in an episode of Castle. That Mock Millionaire is a con artist initially intent on bilking his heiress fiancée, who then fell in love with her. He is then killed by his partner to avoid potentially ruining the con.
  • In the Dawson's Creek episode "Kiss", Joey pretends to be wealthy to avoid looking like a small-town girl when she pursues a handsome stranger named Anderson.
  • Doctor Who offers up a fairly subtle example in "Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel" with the parallel-Earth version of Jackie Tyler. However, Russell T. Davies' first few drafts originally portrayed her as a much, much more obnoxious example—"Trash With Cash!" was how he described it. Later revisions had this come more from Jackie's personality than from her surroundings. It was probably for the best, considering what happens to her...
  • In the various iterations of Dragons' Den, entrepreneurs often show up valuing their business in the millions, only to be called out by the investors for having no more than a few thousand (or less!) of actual revenue to show for it. Naturally, this is a great way to get your pitch ruthlessly torn to shreds.
  • On Dynasty (2017), Alexis makes her long-awaited return in a lavish wardrobe. When it turns out she's inherited the family manor, she's soon moving in with expensive decorations and outfits. Alexis talks to Fallon over how she's spent the last decade traveling across Europe and having a grand time. But Fallon is suspicious when Alexis' driver doesn't know about the fancy hotels in Atlanta and realizes he's an Uber driver. She soon discovers that Alexis has been living in a trailer in a lot outside of Atlanta and is dead broke.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • When Ned Stark became the Hand of the King, he quickly realized that the kingdom was broke. However, he is told that for appearances' sake they still had to put on an expensive tournament. Admitting the problem would considerably weaken King Robert's position and the kingdom cannot afford that.
    • It turns out that the legendary vault of Xaro Xhoan Daxos, "the richest man in Qarth" is completely empty. However, this looks like a case of the character being genuinely rich, but pretending to be even richer for political power, since he still lives in a lavish palace.
    • In season 4, House Lannister becomes this. Tywin Lannister admits to Cersei that the Lannister gold mines have run dry and the family coffers have been nearly exhausted thanks to the recent civil war. Worse yet, a lot of the debt that they're owed is held by the Iron Throne, which itself is heavily financed by debts owed to the Iron Bank of Braavos. This is a very bad thing for House Lannister, since the only reason anyone fears/respects them at all is their supposed wealth.
    • Jaime tells Locke that Lord Selwyn is tremendously rich in sapphires to prevent him and his men from raping Brienne. Brienne later points out that Tarth is called the Sapphire Isle because of its natural beauty, not because it produces lots of those precious stones.
  • Halt and Catch Fire has a downplayed example. Nobody believes that Joe is a millionaire but he makes sure that other people think that he is fairly wealthy. However, when the characters desperately need $30,000 to finance the trip to COMDEX, he reveals that all he has is a sports car and a bunch of designer suits left over from his days as an IBM executive. Beyond that he lives paycheck-to-paycheck like the other characters and his extra spending money comes from living a very spartan life.
  • In the final season of Hell on Wheels we are shown a flashforward of the final days of Thomas Durant, the show's primary Corrupt Corporate Executive. Durant made a lot of money through various shady deals but he then lost all of it in a financial crash and in his final years he was living in poverty. When he receives word that his old rival is visiting the city, Durant refuses to let the man see how far he has fallen so he sells his last valuable possession. He buys himself a new suit and invites the rival to diner in a fancy restaurant. He insists on paying for their meals and pretends that he is still quite wealthy.
  • Richie does this in Highlander “The Ransom of Richard Redstone”. He rents a expensive car and passes himself off as a millionaire to have fun at a casino. It gets him drugged and kidnapped by a woman desperate to avoid a marriage she’s being pushed into in order to save her family’s chateau. Fortunately, he actually wants to help and they and Duncan happen on a cache of valuable wine in the chateau basement that solves her problem.
  • An episode of House had Taub running into and treating his former high school classmate Neil who invites him to his fancy office and asks him for advice on improving a medical device he invented. Taub, who misses his former privileged life, had just lost a bunch of money in the housing bubble crash and had gone through a particularly humiliating day with House, asks him for a job and he proposes they become business partners. Taub hands his resignation to House and goes to meet Neil with the money... and finds a secretary who tells him that Neil was just a temp using the CEO's office to con a bunch of doctors out of their money (using the "high school classmate" and fake illness ploy for all of them) and was just arrested. Taub then spends the entire following episode trying to convince House not to fire him.
  • Done on a regular basis by the crew on Hustle. Sometimes the mark turns out to be this as well.
  • On Jessie, Bertram is nervous about attending his high school reunion as he's simply a butler. Jessie helps him by pretending to be his date and Bertram posing as a rich guy, meeting an old rival with his own hot girlfriend who's a Wall Street millionaire. When the kids come by for help, the lie is exposed, Bertram admitting it to everyone but happy with what he has. They accept it except for his rival who gloats on how much of a fraud Bertram is. At which point, his date reveals he's an even bigger fraud: He's a second-rate accountant who was fired by his own mother, lives in a crummy one-room apartment and she's his cousin who he had to pay to do this (and the check bounced). When Bertram remarks that "the only thing you have that I want is a full head of hair," the cousin rips the guy's wig off.
  • The Reality Show Joe Millionaire had women vie for the affections of a man they believed to be a millionaire. They didn't find out until the final episode that the man wasn't actually a millionaire and the woman he chose in the end had to decide if she still wanted to be with him in spite of the deception.
  • Kenan & Kel: In one episode, Kenan falls in love with a rich girl and decides to pretend he's rich as well. When she happens to enter the grocery store where he works, he pretends to own it.
  • Hyacinth Bucket (who will remind you it's pronounced "bouquet", dear) of Keeping Up Appearances seeks to cultivate an image of wealthy sophistication. In truth, they're solidly middle class, and her husband is a government employee who is not highly salaried, but it doesn't stop her from sneering at those whom she deems "economical". Some of her exploits include convincing her Henpecked Husband Richard to buy a giant country manor instead of a small cottage, and stealing a Rolls-Royce just so she can parade about in it to random strangers.
  • Law & Order:
    • A Jewish woman killed a man she believed owned the rare coins her grandfather had lost during the Holocaust. After various red herrings, it turns out the man never owned the coins at all, he merely claimed he did to cover up how he wasn't as rich as he claimed and using the illusion of a batch of coins he read about in a catalog to fool investors.
    • The girlfriend of an accused killer flaunts herself as a wealthy woman whose father owns a posh restaurant. When they search it for evidence and the manager complains, Serena says to take it up with the girl's father. The manager is confused as to why he would talk to someone who works in the kitchen. The father openly complains he could have afforded to buy the place with all the money he's wasted on the daughter who prefers looking like a rich woman.
    • A Season 21 episode has a case inspired by Anna Delvey as the police investigate the murder of a woman who'd bragged on social media of being from a rich family, complete with photos. They go to break the news to the father...who says he doesn't have a daughter by that name and the photo is a fake. The woman is actually from New Jersey and using this image to scam people out of money to open her own club.
  • A first season episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent has the detectives investigating the murder of a European businessman who'd been getting money from Manhattan socialites. The first sign something is off is that his "correspondence" from famous people is filled with blatant spelling mistakes and then there's no record of his actually belonging to the wealthy family he claimed to. He was a con artist who paid the price for his scams when his victims found out.
  • An episode of The Love Boat had one of the ship's laundry workers pretend to be wealthy to court a young woman who had been dragged onto the cruise by her mother trying to marry her off to whatever rich man they could find. Naturally the ruse is exposed but they still end up together and even the mother accepts it ("I didn't lose a daughter, I gained free dry cleaning!").
  • Man to Man with Dean Learner has Dean Learner portraying himself as a stylish millionaire playboy with lots of famous friends. In reality, he's a shady pornographer and talent agent for C-list celebrities. Learner is trying very hard to look more wealthy than he really is. The announcer crows about Learner's "luxury apartment in London's glittering East End."
  • Done twice in The Monkees; once so that Peter could romance a debutante, and another time to convince Davy's grandfather he is a success so he won't force Davy to return to England.
  • In the second season of Mork & Mindy, Mork comes into Remo and Jeannie's restaurant bragging how he "made millions last night in real estate." Mr. Bickley looks at the "cash" and exclaims, "Wait a minute. This is Monopoly money!" He responds, "Of course. You don't think it would be that useless U.S. currency." Unfortunately, a wannabe gold-digger only overhears that he "made millions." Hilarity Ensues.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Test of Wills", the Victim of the Week is a Con Man pretending to be a member of a wealthy Boston family in order to marry a wealthy heiress. He is killed just after his real identity is exposed.
  • Anthony DiNozzo Sr., Tony's dad, on NCIS, is a formerly wealthy businessman, who is trying to keep up the appearance that he is still wealthy. It later turns out that while Tony believed his father had been wealthy until recently, DiNozzo Sr. had actually been near bankruptcy several times during and after Tony's childhood, but managed to avoid it every time by pretending to be wealthy until he found a way to bounce back.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Occasional episodes has Miss Brooks play this trope, either to impress a snooty dowager ("Madison Country Club"), protect Mrs. Davis' feelings ("The Return of Red Smith"), or even to derail Mrs. Davis' engagement to a confidence man ("Marriage Madness").
  • In the later seasons of Parks and Recreation, it emerges that the Eagleton municipal government in on the edge of bankruptcy thanks to indulging in Conspicuous Consumption. Pawnee ultimately merges with Eagleton to prevent their financial stupidity from impacting the whole region (not that the Eagletonians stop resenting Pawnee).
  • This is the premise of The Riches: A family of grifters squats in the mansion of a wealthy couple (Mr. and Mrs. Rich) who have recently died and start passing themselves off as the Riches.
  • On The Rookie, the cops figure out the identity of a killer in a pack of rich kids by the fact that while he's in photos with a large amount of luggage, he's always wearing the same two outfits all the time. It turns out he's broke and playing up the rich image to win over "investors" to a scam.
  • Kramer on Seinfeld attempted multiple times to pull this off under the pseudonym H.E. Pennypacker. Jerry also tried it once using the name Kel Varnsen ("Advantage Varnsen!"), as did George as Art Vandelay.
  • Played with in Silicon Valley. Russ Hanneman wants to present himself as a high stakes tech investor and he is a legitimate billionaire because he was the first to suggest internet radio, but he has been a billionaire since the 90's and it's pointed out due to inflation he has technically lost wealth even though the number remains the same. His Frat Bro persona does not endear him to many and the main characters are forced into collaboration due to being frozen out of other investment options, and despite being ridiculously wealthy he can be surprisingly cheap. His focus is more on the presentation of being a billionaire (his whiskey Tres Commas refers to having three commas in his net worth) than actually investing into new technologies.
  • One Victim of the Week in Unforgettable was an abused West Virginia housewife who fled to New York and successfully passed herself off as the heiress to a fictional Texas oil tycoon. She was murdered by her publicist when she tired of living a lie and wanted to come clean.
  • Upstart Crow: In "The Green-Eyed Monster", Will attempts to suck up to the wealthy African prince Otello as a means of climbing the social ladder. However, Otello turns out to be a Con Man from Bristol attempting to land himself a wealthy wife.
  • Magdalena López-Pérez from Vecinos is hellbent to make herself and her family look affluent and rich to try (and fail) to cover up their Perpetual Poverty. It doesn't help that she buys luxurious goods with Arturo's money.
  • Veronica Mars:
    • One episode introduces the richest kid in Neptune, who arrives to school in a limousine and lives in the biggest house in town. The twist ending is that he's the son of the butler, and thus is actually not rich.
    • There's also Richard Casablancas, who turns out to have been running a real estate con all this time. When his son hires Veronica to track Richard's gold digger wife, the con ends up being exposed, and Richard flees the country.
    • Jackie acted up being the well-off daughter of a famous ballplayer. She went around in designer outfits, talked of parties and told Wallace she had to end their relationship because she was attending school in Paris. Jackie is thrown when Veronica calls her up at the small Brooklyn diner where she works with her mom to tell her Wallace is going to be looking for her in Paris. She tells Wallace at the airport that she's the product of a one-night stand, her dad not wanting to acknowledge her and her mom too proud to ask for more money. When her dad reached out just for good publicity, she jumped at the chance to spend a year as a "rich kid" but has to return to Brooklyn to care for her son.
  • White Collar has Neal do this a good chunk of the time during investigations, especially since he's already got several rich fake identities already set up (to say nothing of the fact that he's The Charmer and a very Sharp-Dressed Man, adding credibility to the image). Plus, it's fun to make the government pay for you to throw a bitchin' party.


  • The whole point of Gangnam Style is to mock the people who do this. The title refers to the Gangnam District, a place that is like a Korean Beverly Hills, and the people that hail being from there.
  • The premise of the Bobbie Gentry song Fancy - where a desprate mother living in a shack uses every last cent to buy her eighteen year old daughter a beautiful dress so that she can woo rich gentlemen into giving her an uptown lifestyle. Her Mom dies shortly thereafter, but over fifteen years she comes to own a flat in New York and a mansion in Georgia.
  • Kisaki actually pulled off posing as one of the richest bandmen and label owners in Japan for a short while, until his signed bands all started wondering where their pay was, and the Japanese counterpart of the Intimidating Revenue Service paid a visit. The result was that Kisaki was actually near-bankrupt and had been evading taxes for years.
  • In "Den fineste Chevy'n" ("The Prettiest Chevy") by Halva Priset ft. Maria Mena, a mechanic is planning to meet his girlfriend's well-off family and pass himself off as a finance guy because they would otherwise reject him for being a hillbilly. However, he never gets to try because he goes for some Liquid Courage, and ends up in a lake when he tries to drive there under the influence.


    Video Games 
  • Various installments of the The Elder Scrolls include an in-game book simply titled The Dowry, presented in-universe as a work of fiction. It tells the tale of Ynaleigh, the wealthiest landowner in Gunal, and his beautiful daughter Genefra. Ynaleigh promised an incredible sum of gold as a dowry to the man who would become his son-in-law, but imposed a number of criteria on who would be allowed to marry her. One suitor, Welyn Naerellic, demonstrated the first two categories - wealth and intelligence - with lavish displays of wealth, servants, and apprentices translating ancient texts. It seemed he would slip up on the third, the ability to make Genefra laugh, so he asked if he could be allowed to see the dowry... only to then reveal that he was actually a poor thief who had snuck into the vault several months prior, stolen the dowry, and spent it all to pay for the aforementioned lavish displays in order to win Genefra's hand. Genefra found it hilarious, and fortunately, so did her father, and they were allowed to be wed.
  • Recurring through-out Seven Sins, which encourages fraud for its own sake, then rewards the character with sex, money, fame and power.
  • Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town: Lovett, the local gourmet, lives in one of the town's nicer houses and is one of the better-dressed residents. However, once inside, the house consists of two rooms: an ornate dining room and living room combo, and a tiny bare room that functions as both his kitchen and a bedroom. The bed in the room has a bunch of Pauper Patches, which can also be spotted on the back of the man's coat.
  • Joon Yorigami from Touhou Project certainly plays the part. She may dress in fancy outfits and make a big deal of flaunting her ill-gotten wealth, but she also constantly runs herself into debt due to her spending it on pointless tat. Rather fittingly, this makes her similar to her sister Shion, who due to carrying bad luck on her can never hang onto any money herself for long.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ace Attorney, Ron DeLite somehow manages to convince his wife that security guards have really good salaries. When he loses his job and can't maintain any salary at all, he resorts to stealing priceless artifacts.
  • In Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, Runa ends up becoming this trope without even trying to. She's a well-mannered young lady who has an interest in kimonos (very expensive traditional Japanese garments), but in reality, her family is poor, since she's the daughter of a fishmonger and a cleaning lady. In fact, Rie, her tomboyish and unsophisticated best friend, is actually the one who comes from a wealthy family. Hiro had once been interested in Runa due to a mistaken belief that she was rich, but when he visited her home, he dumped her in a heartbeat and moved on to Momoko.

    Western Animation 
  • The Penguin in The Batman spent his debut episodes desperately trying to hide the fact that the Cobblepots had long squandered their family fortune (at one point he "donates" a roll of ones to Bruce Wayne's charity ball).
  • Eddy from Ed, Edd n Eddy has done this several times, such as when he made a video to send to his brother in the episode An Ed Is Born, only to be undermined by his (and Ed's) incompetence at maintaining the charade of his success to his brother. In another episode, Stiff Upper Ed, Eddy again pretends to be a millionaire in an attempt to gain access to a new "Rich Club" the neighborhood kids are holding. However, it's made plainly clear that his inability to be accepted has nothing to do with his (fake) wealth, and everything to do with the other mock millionaires not liking him. Not that he is willing to admit this.
  • Peter from Family Guy once pretended to be a secret agent/astronaut/millionaire with a cowboy hat at his high school reunion. He lets his real life slip when he geeks out at meeting Tom Brady and mentions working at a brewery, and is outed as a fake because "the hat comes right off".
  • In an episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, several charities compete for the attention of such a character.
  • Gravity Falls: Invoked. Stan's dating advice to Soos in "Soos and the Real Girl" is to either become rich or pretend he's rich.
  • In Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats, Riff Raff does this to impress his mother in "Riff Raff's Mom".
  • Jose Carioca, the Disney character, made a living out of this trope (usually to impress girls) in his earlier incarnations.
  • In an episode of The Looney Tunes Show, Daffy Duck pretends to be this, among other things, in order to impress his classmates at their high school reunion.
  • Invoked in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Viva Las Pegasus," with Fluttershy playing the part of Impossibly Rich as part of a Kansas City Shuffle.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In one episode parodying Seven Up! Homer pretends to be a millionaire by moving into Mr. Burns's house without his knowledge (Burns is out of town).
    • In an earlier episode, Homer gather the extended Simpsons family to prove to Lisa that they're not all failures. It however turns out most of the men are, including one who pretends to be a millionaire at parties for a living. He then admits he doesn't actually play a millionaire at parties, he just wishes he did.
    • Another had Marge buying a discounted Chanel dress, and a childhood friend of hers sees her wearing it and invites her to a country club. While the rest of the family enjoy the club, she has to keep altering the dress to maintain the charade.
  • In Spongebob Squarepants, Squidward pretends to be the owner of a five-star restaurant to impress his arch-rival Squilliam. It works, until SpongeBob unintentionally blows his cover. The trope is then inverted, with Squilliam claiming that he made up all his great riches to impress Squidward and is actually a cashier. . . only to reveal that he's "filthy stinkin' rich" once Squidward sympathizes with him.
  • Steven Universe: In the flashback featured in "Story for Steven", Marty said he's going to make both himself and Greg rich "and as far as these saltwater saps" knew, they already were. Based on that episode's line about Marty getting 75% of whatever comes from selling Greg's merchandise and the ten million dollars he's legally obligated to give Greg in "Drop Beat Dad", the "Mock" part no longer applies.
  • Top Cat once pretended to be a Texan millionaire to out con a couple of con artists who had tricked an immigrant hot dog vendor (who T.C. was apparently going to con himself) into investing in some worthless stock.
    • In another episode, T.C. has Benny impersonate a visiting Maharajah with a habit of handing out rubies with the help of a bag of glass beads. T.C. ends up running into the real Maharajah, but assumes he's just another impostor pulling the same scam and ends up throwing the "fake" bag of rubies he gets into the bay.

    Real Life 
  • In Real Life, especially during the Edwardian Period, social climbers faked their way up using this method. By hanging out with the well-to-do and appearing wealthy they could find a marriage that would usually be outside of their class.
  • The Fake Sheikh Mazher Mahmood, who uses his disguise to further his nefarious undercover reporting goals.
  • This was one of the many controversies that surrounded the notorious Fox reality special Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? The titular "multi-millionare" Rick Rockwell turned out to have only about $750,000 in liquid assets and a net worth of just over $2 million dollars at the time of the show's airing — a fairly well-off man, but far from the elite member of the One Percent that the show promoted him as. Further digging revealed a history of domestic violence and stalking. Perhaps fittingly, winner Darva Conger turned out to be a Phony Veteran.
  • Many families and individuals do, in fact, live well beyond their means in order to create an image of living "the high life." Unfortunately, doing so for even relatively short periods of time tend to lead to massive debt (and possibly bankruptcy). The concept of "keeping up with the Joneses" can lead to this when taken to its logical extremes. This is well documented in The Millionaire Next Door, specifically the concept of Under Accumulators of Wealth. Also known as "Big Hat, No Cattle".
  • Aristotle Onassis, as a young man trying to make his fortune but still quite broke, stayed in a very expensive hotel. He once borrowed $20 off a friend and bought a packet of cigarettes from the front desk, telling them to "Keep the change". When his friend asked why, he explained that if they thought he wasn't rich they'd ask him to pay his bill.
  • John Spano, the guy who tricked the NHL into thinking he was rich enough to buy the New York Islanders in 1996. Strictly speaking he wasn't a mock millionaire (he did have about $5 million in assets), but when one agrees with the then-owner John Pickett to buy a 90% stake in the franchise for $165 million by claiming to be worth $230 million the distinction makes no difference.
  • Special mention to the British gentleman who turned up at a Porsche car dealership, explained he'd won on the National Lottery, and on the strength of that, could he take a high-end sports car out on a test drive? The dealership fell over itself to assist, and allowed him a £300,000 car with a full petrol tank. When he returned, having burned through a couple of hundred pounds worth of petrol, the dealership asked, in a roundabout way, if Sir was interested in what he saw and was intending to pay cash. The driver smiled at them and said that if he'd won more than twelve quid on the lottery, he really would be interested in buying a porsche. Thanks for the drive! He showed them the winning ticket as proof he really had won on the lottery; the fact it was only twelve quid was something the dealership had not bothered to find out before giving him the freedom of the place.
    • This Real Stories YouTube video tells the story of another British man who flat-out lied to his wife and everybody he met that he had a big lottery win. He also was able to trick a car dealership into letting him drive around one of their expensive sports cars, and was almost able to buy a house just on the assertion that he had won the lottery big time.
  • Russian-German ex-pat Anna Sorokin AKA Anna Delvey, subject of Inventing Anna, managed to spend 2016 and 2017 living the high life in New York thanks to forged documents, strategic sponging off the actual rich and a complicated web of lies.
  • Simon Leviev passed himself off as the equally rich son of Israeli diamond magnate Lev Avnerovich Leviev in order to scam multiple women on Tinder out of their money, going so far as enlisting an entire team of people to act as his entourage and aid in his facade. A Concerned Citizen shares further details of Leviev's fraudulent activity here.
  • German man Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter came to the US and started passing himself off as a relative of a wealthy family. In California, he claimed to be Christopher Chichester, a relative of Lord Mountbatten. This allowed him to hobnob with the wealthy residents of San Marino. When his story started to unravel, he disappeared, then reappeared in New York City as Clark Rockefeller, a supposed member of the Rockefeller family. He managed to get married under this identity and scam his way into becoming an art collector. He was found out after his wife divorced him, and he attempted to kidnap his daughter and run away to another fake identity. The whole story can be found in the book The Man in the Rockefeller Suit.


Video Example(s):


Donald's Deception

Donald Duck feeling under pressure to impress his old friends José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles (with whom he played in a band The Three Caballeros) lies and pretends he's a Billionaire and has inherited McDuck Enterprises from his Uncle Scrooge

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / MockMillionaire

Media sources: