Let’s face it: humans, on the whole, are not good with money. Lured by an easy buck, many folks will foolishly wager their life savings on any number of idiotic schemes. In this article, we’ll share ten hilarious tales of suckers who gambled away everything they had on bad bets and lost their life savings along the way.
Carnival Hustle, 2013
This story was recently in the news, and it’s what inspired this whole article. Henry Gribbohm was at a carnival in New Hampshire when he spotted a game that he thought he could win. The carnie told him that all he had to do was throw two balls into a tilted bucket and he could win an Xbox 360 with Kinect. Henry wanted that Xbox, enough to blow nearly $300 on it. When he didn’t win, Gribbohm didn’t leave it at that. Instead, he went home and emptied out his life savings, bringing it to the carnival. Hilariously, he blew another $2,300 on the game and still didn’t get the Xbox, but was given a consolation prize: a giant stuffed banana with dreadlocks. I’m sure his kids will really appreciate that when it’s time for them to go to college.
Internet Dating Scam, 2012
If there’s one thing that we know about the Internet, it’s that nobody on it is who they appear to be. This was a lesson learned the hard way by English schoolteacher Alison Peters in 2012. After her marriage of 42 years came to an unpleasant end, Peters turned to the world of Internet dating, meeting a man named Steve Meyers online. The pair quickly hit it off, but things got weird when Steve, a self-employed petroleum engineer, started asking Alison for loans to buy equipment. Before too long, she had sent her beau – who she still had never met – her entire life savings, almost a quarter of a million dollars. After losing it all to the scammers who set up the ruse, she was forced to move out of her house and into a trailer. But on the bright side, it did bring her back together with her ex-husband.
In A Mattress, 2009
Many people have a justified fear of putting their money in the bank, especially after the financial upheavals of the last decade. One traditional alternative is stuffing your savings into a mattress and sleeping on it. Unfortunately, in the case of an elderly Tel Aviv woman, a good deed by her daughter turned into bankruptcy. The woman - who was not named in the media – had stuffed away nearly a million dollars in her bed, but when her daughter bought her a new mattress to replace the old one without realizing it, all that money went off to the city dump, where it was buried underneath tons of trash and never recovered.
Kid Buys Candy, 2012
Little kids and money don’t mix, but most of the time when a youngster makes a financial mistake, they can pay for it out of their allowance. Not so in the case of an unnamed nine-year-old boy in the Ukrainian city of Konotop. After finding his family’s life savings (a sum of about $4,000) hidden in the couch, the enterprising youngster swiped it and took it to the local candy store, where he proceeded to clean the place out of sweets. Needless to say, his parents weren’t all too pleased with his initiative.
A Thai Pig Farm, 2012
Overseas investments often seem like an easy path to quick cash, but if you can’t see what you’re buying in to, you shouldn’t buy it. That was the lesson learned by Scottish couple Jackie and Stephen Finlayson in 2012. After seeing an advertisement for the New Dawn Farm outside of Bangkok, they contacted the owner; a man named Eddy Biggs, and put down about $90,000 for 15 breed sows and 150 pigs. They were promised a 69% profit over 15 months, but instead they didn’t receive a penny back. Biggs claimed that their pigs were stolen or died of illness. They weren’t the only people the hog farmer soaked with his scam, either.
Watching Strippers, 2001
There are all kinds of people in this world, and some of them are up to no good. So when two elderly Norwegian brothers opened their door one Oslo evening to find a young woman, it should have been a warning sign. However, for Arne and Oeystein Tokyam, both in their seventies, it had been quite some time since any lady had shown interest in them, so they let her and her friend in. The pair began a bawdy striptease performance for the brothers, but it wasn’t until after they’d left that Arne and Oeystein discovered that their safe, containing 75,000 Norwegian kroner, had been swiped.
Facebook IPO, 2012
Playing the stock market is basically just legalized gambling. Sure, you can invest based on the information you have about a company, but there’s really no way to know what’s going to happen to their share price. So when Uma Swaminathan, a widow living in East Brunswick, New Jersey, bet big on the Facebook IPO to the tune of her entire life savings, then changed her mind, things got ugly. Swaminathan instructed her broker to buy 6,200 shares of the social network when it went public, but then changed her mind. Unfortunately, the deal had already gone through, wiping her out completely and prompting her to file suit as a result.
Advertising the End of the World, 2011
If you thought the end of the world was coming, you probably wouldn’t care about hanging on to your cash. For Robert Fitzpatrick, a former New York subway employee, the 2011 apocalypse predicted by evangelist Harold Camping was reason enough for him to liquidate his $140,000 life savings and use it to purchase advertising all over the city on more than 1,000 subway cars and bus shelters. The message – that the world was set to be destroyed on May 21, 2011 – turned out to not be true, and Fitzpatrick was left destitute.
Eaten By Termites, 2008
Unlike many of the stories in this feature, the sad fate of Dwarika Prasad’s life savings wasn’t entirely his own fault. The currency trader had kept his investment certificates, currency and other paper goods in a safe deposit box in his Patna bank, confident that they’d be there when he needed them. However, on a routine visit to check on his holdings in 2008, he opened the box to reveal that an infestation of termites had chewed up everything inside, rendering his life savings valueless. The bank had posted signs about the bugs but neglected to inform customers directly, which is pretty screwed up.
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Fake Gold Bars, 2009
Up until the price of gold dropped fairly recently, many people were arguing that precious metals were the best way to preserve your life savings. Unfortunately for a Fontana, California woman, she didn’t realize that people typically don’t sell gold bars out of the trunk of a car. When the woman met a pair of criminals in the parking lot of a Food 4 Less, she was shocked to see that they had what appeared to be bars of pure gold. They spun a story about an injured brother who needed money fast and offered to sell them to her at a serious discount. The three went to a nearby bank, where the woman closed out her savings account in exchange for three precious bars. Unfortunately for the woman, they turned out to just be painted gold, and she was now bankrupt.