Most people like to think that they’re wise to scams and cons, particularly financial ones, and would never be stupid enough to fall for one. But even the most suspicious of us could have been caught out by this intricate scheme which involved setting up a whole physical bank complete with ATMs and staff to make it seem completely legit.

Nanjing, China, has been struck by an incident of fraud on a huge scale. As unbelievable as it sounds, an entirely fake bank was able to open up shop and run for a whole year, managing to scam 200 million yuan (around US$32m) from unsuspecting customers. The bank had a building and ATMs just like the nationally owned banks, the staff wore uniforms, and they had an official-looking website.

▼Here is the bank’s building in Nanjing’s Pukou District.


▼Here’s the entrance.


▼It wasn’t just the exterior of the building; everything inside was also designed to look like the real deal from the counters, to the ATMs, to the staff.


▼They even had a public, official-looking website.


However, the one important thing they did not have was authorization as a financial institution.

The bank promised an extraordinary interest rate with weekly returns of 2% – a full one percent higher than that offered by nationally owned banks – and in one year 200 people used their services, depositing a total of 200 million yuan into the fake bank’s accounts. One local business owner is reported to have deposited 12 million yuan ($1.9m) of his company’s earnings into an account set up with the fake bank. Although all seemed well and good to begin with, after four weeks his interest payments suddenly ceased. After trying and failing to get his money back, he went to the authorities, who quickly launched an investigation.

In the end, four people were arrested for fraud and the fake bank was shut down. It is still unclear, however, how or if the victims of the scam will get their money back.

Of course there are plenty of tales of financial woe from people who have fallen for schemes that sound too good to be true, and then end up poorer than they started. Usually we can reassure ourselves that we would be well-informed enough not to get caught in the same traps, but when a scam is so elaborate that it’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing, how many of us could truly say that they wouldn’t fall for it?

Source & Images: LabQ