Banks work because people trust them to take money in—and to give it back. But in Shandong Province, in eastern China, one farmer opened a fake bank branch that was committed to only the first half of that equation. The tellers—the farmer’s teenager daughter and two of her classmates—would accept deposits. But if anyone asked to take their money back out, the trio would say that the withdrawal system hadn’t been set up yet, as the Financial Times reports.
The bank branch, which looked to be part of the state-run China Construction Bank, was also outfitted with card readers and bank books. It lasted a month before anyone caught on. (The farmer who set it up says he returned all the money he took in.)
This isn’t China’s first fake bank. Earlier this year, the police caught onto a fake bank that had been operating for about a year and had taken in $32 million (including almost $2 million from a single customer) before it was shut down. That bank, the BBC reported at the time, was “actually a rural cooperative which had none of the accreditations required to operate as a bank.”
And it’s not just banks that are being mocked up. At the end of July, a factory churning out fake iPhones was raided. Some scam artists have gotten even more creative, as the Financial Times writes:
These include the fake army officers who wander the nation collecting bribes, the soft drink vendor who faked his own death to get compensation from the local city government and the Chinese rice trader who claimed to buy an American bank that did not, in fact, exist.
Some cheaters, at least, do get caught. But these are just the stories we know about. The best fakes are the ones that haven’t been exposed yet.
Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Since this is Cheat Week at Atlas Obscura, those finds will all be fake. Got a favorite hoax? Tell us about it! Send your finds to email@example.com.