Lifestyle & Belief

Vietnam's murky meteorite market


A meteor streaks across the sky against a field of stars during a meteorite shower early August 13, 2010 in Spain.


Jorge Guerrero

How do you sell a tiny lump of tar for $32 million?

Apparently you just tell buyers it's a meteorite blessed with space magic.

Vietnamese outlet Thanh Nien is reporting an elaborate scam in Ho Chi Minh City that nearly lured an (apparently quite rich) man into buying a fake meteorite for millions. The con artists even planted faux customers to "get dizzy and talk nonsense" after touching the chunk of tar. The kicker? A weak current was fed into the rock via wires to shock the duped customer, Thanh Nien reports.

According to Vietnamese media, meteorite scams are somewhat common and often sap victims of gigantic sums.

Late last year, newspaper Tuoi Tre printed an account of a meteorite scam that duped a woman into paying $95,000 for a perfectly boring terrestrial stone. In February, Thanh Nien reported the attempted $96,000 sale of a "meteorite" that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a normal rock painted black.

Other accounts of meteorite scams, according to claims printed by Tuoi Tre, invite disbelief. If this report is true, a Vietnamese woman paid $4.7 million for a fake meteorite. Other reports suggest such staggering figures are a typical asking price.

It seems that people with million-dollar meteorite shopping budgets and their money are soon parted.