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    Georg Franz Hein, born in Hannover in 1919, was alone in the world from the age of 6. After enduring the beginnings of Nazi persecution in Germany in the late 1920's/early 1930's, his widowed mother se...
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An impostor (also spelled imposter) is a person who pretends to be somebody else, often to try to gain financial or social advantages through social engineering, but just as often for purposes of espionage or law enforcement.

Aim of this project

The aim of this project is to create a collection of profiles of all international imposters, feel free to add names and profiles to this project Also see the project Wartime Cross-Dressers

See also: faker, imposter, pseud, pseudo, role player, sham, shammer, pretender, fraud, fake, beguiler, cheater, deceiver, trickster, slicker, impersonator, rogue, deceiver, hypocrite, charlatan, quack, trickster, knave (archaic), phoney or phony, charlatan, fraud, humbug, mountebank, phony, pretender, quack ...

Types of imposters

  • Fraudsters
  • False nationality claims
  • False Royal Heritage Claims
  • Academic imposters
  • False minority national identity claims
  • Multiple imposters
  • Women who lived as men
  • Military imposters
  • Others

List of Fraudsters

  • Frank Abagnale (born 1948), who passed bad checks as a fake pilot, doctor, and lawyer.
  • Gerald Barnbaum (born 1933), former pharmacist who posed as a doctor for over twenty years after stealing the identity of a licensed medical professional
  • Cassie Chadwick (1857–1907), who pretended to be Andrew Carnegie's daughter
  • Ravi Desai, a journalist who passed himself off as Robert Klinger, a fictional CEO of BMW's North American division, in a series of diary entries for Slate magazine
  • David Hampton (1964–2003), who pretended to be the son of Sidney Poitier
  • Joseph "Harry" Jelinek (1905–1986), who is alleged to have fraudulently sold the Karlstejn Castle to American industrialists. Over 500 complaints were levied against Jelinek, but each was revoked or resolved amicably.
  • Brian Kim (born 1975/1976), hedge fund manager, lived in Christodora House in Manhattan, falsified documents identifying himself as the president-secretary of its condo association, and then transferred $435,000 from the association's bank account to his own bank account.[1]
  • Victor Lustig (1890–1947), "The man who sold the Eiffel Tower. Twice."
  • Richard Allen Minsky (born 1944), who scammed female victims for sex by pretending to be jailed family members over the phone
  • Arthur Orton (1834–1898), also known as the Tichborne Claimant, who claimed to be the missing heir Sir Roger Tichborne
  • Paul Palaiologos Tagaris (ca. 1320/40 – after 1394), Orthodox monk, claimed to be a member of the Palaiologos dynasty, pretended to be the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, later succeeding in being named Latin Patriarch of Constantinople.
  • Frederick Emerson Peters (1885–1959), U.S. celebrity impersonator and writer of bad checks
  • Lobsang Rampa (1910–1981), who claimed to be a deceased Tibetan Lama possessing the body of Cyril Hoskins and wrote a number of books based on that premise
  • James Reavis (1843–1914), master forger who used his real name but created a complex, fictitious history that pointed to him as the rightful owner of much of Arizona
  • Christophe Rocancourt (born 1967), who pretended to be a member of the Rockefeller family
  • Michael Sabo (born 1930), who was known as a "Great Impostor" with over 100 professional aliases listed with the FBI
  • Leander Tomarkin (1895–1967), fake doctor who became the personal physician of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. Albert Einstein assumed the honorary presidency of one of his medical conferences in 1931.[2]
  • Wilhelm Voigt (1849–1922), who masqueraded as the "Captain of Köpenick"

False nationality claims

  • Korla Pandit (1921–1998), African-American pianist/organist who pretended to be from India
  • George Psalmanazar (1679–1763), who claimed to be from Formosa

False Royal Heritage Claims

  • Maddess Aiort claimed to have been Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia
  • Granny Alina claimed to have been Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia
  • Michelle Anches claimed to have been Grand Duchess Tatiana of Russia
  • Anna Anderson (1896–1984), who may have really believed she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia
  • Bardiya (died 522 BC), ancient ruler of Persia, widely regarded as an impostor but may have been genuine
  • Bhawal case, concerning a "resurrected" Indian prince who may have been genuinely who he was claimed to be
  • Natalya Bilikhodze appeared in the year 1995 and went to Russia in the year 2000 where she tried to claim the "Romanov fortune".
  • Marga Boodts claimed to have been Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia
  • Alexis Brimeyer (1946–1995), Belgian who claimed connection to various European royal houses
  • Mary Carleton (1642–1673), who was, amongst other things, a false princess and bigamist
  • Count Dante (1939–1975) is the real name of John Keehan. In his campaign to promote his system of martial arts, he also claimed victories in various secret deathmatches in Asia, and mercenary activity in Cuba, none of which carried documented proof.
  • Suzanna Catharina de Graaff was a Dutch woman who claimed to be the fifth daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra, born in 1903 when Alexandra was reported to have had a "hysterical pregnancy".[13] There are no official or private records of Alexandra giving birth to any child at this time.
  • Pseudo-Constantine Diogenes, pretended to be a son of Byzantine emperor Romanos VI Diogenes
  • False Dmitriy I (c. 1581–1606), False Dmitriy II (died 1610), and False Dmitriy III (died 1612), who all impersonated the son of Ivan the Terrible
  • Harry Domela (1905–after 1978), who pretended to be an heir to the German throne
  • Vasily Filatov of Astrakhan, Russia claimed to be Tsarevich Alexei of Russia shortly before his death in the year 1988.
  • Michael Goleniewski was a CIA agent who in the year 1959 claimed to be Tsarevich Alexei of Russia
  • An author, Michael Gray, (an alias adopted by a Northern Irish teacher) claimed in his book Blood Relative that the Tsarevich escaped with the Dowager Empress aboard the warship HMS Marlborough in 1919 and later assumed the name Nikolai Chebotarev. In the book, Gray claims he is the son of the Tsarevich and Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, and they had secretly married in the late 1940s.
  • Anatoly Ionov claims to be the son of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia
  • Eugene Nikolaevich Ivanoff from Poland claimed to be Tsarevich Alexei of Russia in the year 1927.
  • Tile Kolup (died 1285), also known as Dietrich Holzschuh, was an impostor who in 1284 began to pretend to be the Emperor Frederick II
  • Eleanora Kruger (1901 - 1954) claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia
  • Eugenio Lascorz (1886–1962), who claimed connection to the royal house of the Byzantine Empire
  • Terence Francis MacCarthy (born 1957), styled himself MacCarthy Mór and "Prince of Desmond"
  • Karl Wilhelm Naundorff Karl Wilhelm Naundorff went to his grave insisting he was the rightful king of France. To read more see his profile
  • Šćepan Mali (died 1773), who claimed to be Peter III of Russia, and managed to rule Montenegro
  • False Margaret (c. 1260–1301), who impersonated the Maid of Norway
  • Pierre Plantard (1920–2000), the mastermind behind the Priory of Sion hoax who claimed to be Merovingian, a pretender to the throne of France
  • Yemelyan Pugachev (c. 1742–1775), who claimed to be Peter III of Russia
  • Raiktor (fl. 1081), an Eastern Orthodox monk who assumed the identity of Byzantine Emperor Michael VII
  • Frederick Rolfe (1860–1913), who is better known as Baron Corvo
  • Alexander Savin claimed to be Tsarevich Alexei of Russia and was arrested by the OGPU (Russian secret police) in the year 1928.
  • Lambert Simnel (c. 1477–c. 1525), pretender to the throne of England
  • Eugenia Smith (1899–1997), another woman who claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia
  • Heino Tammet claimed to be Tsarevich Alexei of Russia. He died in the year 1977 in Vancouver, Canada.
  • Larissa Tudor appeared strikingly similar to Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia but never actually claimed to be the former grand duchess. Many people who knew Larissa strongly suspected that she was the former grand duchess of Russia.
  • Nadezhda Vasilyeva, appeared in the 1920s in Russia and claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia. She died in a psychiatric ward in the year 1971 in Kazan, Russia.
  • Perkin Warbeck (c. 1474–1499), pretender to the throne of England
  • George Zhudin (??? - 1930), claimed to be Tsarevich Alexei of Russia. He lived with the other Romanov impostor/ pretender Eleanora Kruger.

Academic impostors

  • Dr. Charlotte Bach (1920–1981), fringe evolutionary theorist who was not a doctor
  • Marvin Hewitt (born 1922), who became a university professor without any credentials
  • James Hogue (born 1959), who most famously entered Princeton University by posing as a self-taught orphan
  • Marilee Jones (born 1951), Dean of Admissions at MIT and best-selling author who claimed advanced degrees in science fields. After ten years in the post, she was revealed to have only a high school diploma.
  • George O'Leary (born 1946), who, in 2001, was hired and fired within 5 days as the head football coach of the University of Notre Dame, when it was discovered that he did not have a master's degree from "NYU-Stony Brook University" (a non-existent institution), as stated on his résumé.
  • Scott Thompson (born 1957), who, in 2012, was hired as the CEO of Yahoo!, on the basis of holding a Bachelor's degree in accounting and computer science. It was discovered four months later that he did not hold a computer science degree; he thus left the company.

False minority national identity claims

  • Asa Earl Carter (1925–1979), who under the alias of supposedly Cherokee writer Forrest Carter, authored several books, including The Education of Little Tree
  • Carlos Castaneda (1925–1998), Peruvian-American author and self-styled anthropologist, who claimed to be a shaman
  • Iron Eyes Cody (1904–1999), Italian American actor (the "crying Indian chief" in the "Keep America Beautiful" public service announcements in the early 1970s), who claimed to be of Cherokee-Cree ancestry
  • Jamake Highwater (c. 1942–2001), writer and journalist, born Jay Marks, an Armenian adopted by a Greek family; later claimed he was American Indian
  • Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance (1890–1932), an African American who claimed to be the son of a Blackfoot chief
  • Two Moon Meridas (c. 1888–1933), seller of herbal medicine who claimed that he was of Sioux birth
  • Grey Owl (1888–1938), born Archibald Belaney, an Englishman who took on the identity of an Ojibwa
  • Mark Yancey, a social media user who created Native American ancestry to lend credibility to his work to retain Native American mascots, like the Washington Redskins
  • US Senator Elizabeth Warren, who appears to have been genuinely mistaken about her lack of Native American ancestry.
  • Vanilla Ice, who claims to be Choctaw.

Multiple impostors

  • Frédéric Bourdin (born 1974), "the French Chameleon"
  • Barry Bremen (1947–2011), known in the sports world as "The Great Imposter", after pretending to be a MLB umpire, a NBA All-Star, and a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, among other things
  • Ferdinand Waldo Demara (1921–1982), "The Great Impostor", who masqueraded as many people from monks to surgeons to prison wardens
  • Christian Gerhartsreiter (born 1961), German impostor and convicted murderer who claimed to be a member of the Rockefeller family, among other things
  • Stanley Clifford Weyman (1890–1960), American multiple impostor who impersonated public officials, including the U.S. Secretary of State and various military officers
  • Laurel Rose Willson (1941–2002), who claimed to be "Lauren Stratford", a victim of satanic ritual abuse, and later on, Holocaust survivor, "Laura Grabowski"

Non-transgender people who disguised their gender

  • Joan of Arc (1412–1431), French heroine and Catholic saint who disguised herself as a man to fight the English
  • James Barry (c. 1790–1865), born Margaret Ann Bulkley who successfully lived as a male military surgeon in the British Army
  • Frances Clalin (c. 1830–after 1863), disguised herself as a man named Jack Williams in order to fight for Union forces during the American Civil War
  • Nadezhda Durova (1783–1866), a woman who, while disguised as a man, became a decorated soldier in the Russian cavalry, during the Napoleonic Wars
  • Catalina de Erauso (1592–1650), Basque nun-soldier in the Spanish colonial army
  • Pope Joan (fl. 1099), a woman who allegedly ruled as pope, although most modern scholars doubt the historicity of this account
  • Dorothy Lawrence (1896–1964), English reporter, who secretly posed as a man to become a soldier during World War I
  • Hua Mulan, legendary figure from ancient China who disguised herself as a man to join the army, when her father was too old for it
  • Deborah Sampson (1760–1827), a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War
  • Mary Anne Talbot (1778–1808), Englishwoman who wore male dress and became a sailor during the Napoleonic Wars
  • Loreta Janeta Velazquez (1842–c. 1902), Cuban-born woman who claimed that she masqueraded as a male Confederate soldier during the American Civil War


  • Billy Tipton (1914–1989), born Dorothy Lucille Tipton, jazz musician, is regarded by many to be a true transgender man.

Military impostors

  • Joseph A. Cafasso (born 1956), former Fox News military analyst who claimed to have been a highly decorated Special Forces soldier and Vietnam War veteran. He actually served in the U.S. Army for only 44 days in 1976.
  • Wes Cooley (born 1932), former U.S. Congressman from Oregon who claimed to have fought in the Korean War. He served in the U.S. Army for two years, but was never in Korea.
  • Brian Dennehy (born 1938), American actor who claimed to have fought in the Vietnam War. He served in the United States Marine Corps for four years, but was never in Vietnam.
  • George Dupre (1903–1982), who claimed that he worked for the SOE and the French Resistance during World War II. Dupre served in World War II, but he was never in France or with the SOE.
  • Joseph Ellis (born 1943), American professor and historian who claimed a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. His actual military record consisted of obtaining a graduate student deferral of service until 1969 and then teaching history at West Point until 1972.
  • Jesse Macbeth (born 1984), anti-war activist who claimed to be an Army Ranger and veteran of the Iraq War. He was discharged from the Army as unfit for duty before completing basic training.
  • Alan Mcilwraith (born 1978), a call centre worker from Glasgow who, among other things, claimed that he was a decorated captain in the British Army. Mcilwraith had never served in the military.
  • James Shortt (born 1953), Director-General of the International Bodyguard Association, who at various times made false claims to have served in the British Special Air Service, Parachute Regiment and military and law enforcement units around the world. Shortt's actual military experience only amounted to a few months' part-time service in the British Territorial Army.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt (1849–1922), German impostor who masqueraded as a Prussian military officer in 1906 and became famous as "The Captain of Köpenick"
  • Micah Wright (born 1974), anti-war activist who claimed to be an Army Ranger involved in the United States invasion of Panama and several other special operations. He was an ROTC student in college, but never took a commission and never served in the military.
  • Fritz Duquesne the enigmatic Boer who fought, spied and sabotaged his way through three cataclysmic wars.


  • Bampfylde Moore Carew (1693–1759), a Devonshire man whose popular Life and Adventures included picaresque episodes of vagabond life, including his claim to have been elected King of the Beggars
  • Alan Conway (1934–1998), who impersonated Stanley Kubrick during the early 1990s
  • Chevalier d'Eon (1728–1810), French diplomat, spy and soldier, whose first 49 years were spent as a man, and whose last 33 years were spent as a woman
  • Anoushirvan D. Fahkran (born c. 1970), an Iranian immigrant, who in 1997 legally changed his name to Jonathan Taylor Spielberg and posed as the 16-year-old nephew of legendary Hollywood director Steven Spielberg to enroll in high school
  • Robert Hendy-Freegard (born 1971), English barman, car salesman and conman who masqueraded as a MI5 agent
  • John Howard Griffin (1920–1980), who, in 1959, darkened his skin and traveled in the American South as a black man, to write Black Like Me
  • Alicia Esteve Head (born 1973), Spanish woman who claimed to be a survivor of the September 11 attacks, under the name Tania Head
  • Paul Jordan-Smith (1885–1971), father of the hoax art movement called Disumbrationism
  • Ashida Kim, believed by many to be Caucasian author and self-proclaimed ninja Radford Davis (alternate pen name Christopher Hunter), who wrote numerous books on ninjutsu during the '70s and '80s, noted for refusing to provide details about his teachers, or the lineage of the martial art in which he claims expertise
  • Enric Marco (born 1921), Spaniard who claimed to have been a prisoner in the Nazi German concentration camps Mauthausen and Flossenburg in World War II
  • Steven Jay Russell (born 1957), who has impersonated judges and a doctor, among others, and is known for escaping from prison multiple times
  • William Stirrat, claimed to be Hy Zaret, the writer of the lyrics to the the hit song Unchained Melody
  • Treva Throneberry (born 1969), convicted American con artist who spent most of her twenties pretending to be a teenager
  • Arnaud du Tilh (fl. 1556), who took the place of Martin Guerre in the mid-16th century and lived with Guerre's wife and son for three years before being discovered when Guerre returned
  • Binjamin Wilkomirski (born Bruno Grosjean in 1941), who adopted a constructed identity as a Holocaust survivor and published author


this project is in HistoryLink