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Deja Vu

November 12, 2012

Too Good to be True


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2012: A Texas woman is kicking herself after falling victim to a classic bait-and-switch scam. Jalonta Freeman paid $200 dollars for an iPad in a gas station parking lot after being approached by a man offering the popular device at a fourth of the retail cost. Alas, after the money changed hands, Freeman opened the box to find only a mirror adorned with the Apple logo. The Daily News reports:

"I just started cussing," Freeman told a local television station. "I was upset. Anybody would be upset if you found out you just got scammed, you know what I'm saying? You just lost $200."

"That's so messed up," Freeman, who admitted to feeling pretty stupid, said. "That's so wrong. I would never do anybody like that. Get a job."

The woman contacted local police but without a license plate number, she admits there isn’t much hope.

1822: After returning to Britain from a series of around-the-world adventures, Scottish soldier Gregor Macgregor announced that he was now prince of Poyais, a South American land of riches, and that he was willing to sell plots of land in his new country to worthy and eager colonists. Macgregor’s venture was a wild success, but the would-be farmers of Poyais realized their mistake upon arrival:

Two or three shiploads of miserable creatures were sent out as emigrants, and landed on the Musquito shore, in North America, where, on the western side of the Black River, the present realm of Poyas was supposed to lie. They found, indeed, an unwholesome tract of unreclaimed swamp, on which, by the gracious permission of Frederich Augustus, who entirely repudiated all connection with Sir Gregor, they were allowed to live, as long as famine and fever would let them.

Most of these poor wretches perished miserably; some few, wasted with hunger and sickness, were fortunately brought off. The Kingdom of Poyais is still, we believe, to be let.

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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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