Falling for it: take our financial fraud quiz

If you thought scams were a 21st century innovation, think again. Long before the internet existed, fraudsters were taking other people’s money. Try our quiz and test your knowledge of financial fraud. 

By Nigel Bowen

  1. History’s first recorded shareholder revolt occurred after what company allegedly had its account books “smeared with bacon” so they would be “eaten by dogs”?
  2. Charles Ponzi’s (initially legitimate) business was based on the arbitrage of what type of coupon?
  3. Lehman Brothers staff used an accounting loophole to make a temporary sale (for short-term financing purposes) look like a permanent one that took a risky asset off the books. What was this loophole known as?
  4. For what crime did Alan Bond serve his longest prison term?
  5. Who was the first victim of fraudster Frank ‘Catch Me If You Can’ Abagnale Jr?
  6. Who is famous for pioneering the use of the “money box” (which could supposedly copy banknotes), as well as running a counterfeiting operation so successful it threatened to undermine confidence in the greenback, not to mention attempting to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal?
  7. What type of accounting did Enron executives misuse to cook the company’s books?
  8. Bernie Madoff convinced the likes of Kevin Bacon, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg he could deliver a return of exactly 11 per cent per annum for 15 years due to what volatility-minimising investment strategy?
  9. Independent audit committees became common after what US company was exposed in 1938 for overstating inventory, creating fake purchase orders and stealing cash from sales?
  10. What is the Republic of Poyais and why is it infamous?
  11. Which telecommunications company was able to inflate its assets by US$11 billion by using fake accounting entries to increase revenues, as well as underreporting line costs by capitalising rather than expensing?
  12. Name the stock trader, later convicted of insider trading, who in 1986 famously said, “I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”


  1. The Dutch East India Company. Source
  2. An international reply coupon, which can be exchanged for one or more airmail postage stamps. Source
  3. A ‘Repo 105’. Source
  4. Bond had several brushes with the law from the age of 14. His longest stint was four years in jail after pleading guilty to siphoning A$1.2 billion from Bell Resources. Source
  5. His father, who ended up with a US$3400 (A$4645) bill after giving 15-year-old Frank a petrol card. Frank would have the card overcharged and then split the “profit” with the service-station attendant. Source
  6. Count Victor Lustig. Source
  7. Mark-to-marketing accounting. Source
  8. A strategy centred on proprietary option collars. Source
  9. Drug and chemical company McKesson & Robbins. Source
  10. A fictional South American country. Scottish conman Gregor MacGregor sold ‘Poyaisan’ land certificates to hundreds of British and French investors, 250 of whom attempted to emigrate to the non-existent nation. Source
  11. Worldcom. Source
  12. Ivan Boesky, the real-life inspiration for Gordon Gekko. Source