Ponzi Schemes – What They Are and Why We Fall For Them [Infographic]

Since I am up to my eyeballs in mortgage paperwork, I figured I would pass along this infographic about Ponzi schemes.  We have all heard about them, yet we still find people falling for them.  Why is that?  I wrote an article last year entitled “Why Do We Fall for Ponzi Schemes?”  I thought it would be good to rehash that topic because I get asked about it on occasion.  First, let’s find out what a Ponzi scheme actually is.

What is a Ponzi Scheme?

A Ponzi scheme is typically related to investments.  Someone or a group of people get “investors” to give them money with the promise of a return. These returns are not typical in the investment world.  They tend to be quite high, like doubling your money quickly.  The schemer is essentially telling you that you will get rich quickly.  Unfortunately, people still fall for this type of thing. The thought of getting fast cash is just too much to pass up.  Once the schemer gets the original investment, they go out to find more investors.  They ask for more money, which is then paid back to the original investors.  This shows them they are getting a return.  This keeps them interested and typically gets them to reinvest back into the scheme.  As the scheme grows, more and more people become investors.  Each tier of people get paid by the new investors.

Ponzi schemes can last a long time as long as new investors are continually added.  Remember, most of these schemes don’t actually involve any investing.  The schemer just gets more money and distributes it slowly to each investor based on when they invested.  Most Ponzi schemes are found out once new investors stop coming.  When the money dries up, then there is nothing left to distribute.  There are times when schemes break up because people get wary and start noticing what is going on.

Why Do We Fall for Ponzi Schemes?

This answer is quite simple.  We love money!  Ponzi schemes happen for two reasons.  People are in love with making money.  They are more in love with making money fast.  Ponzi schemes seem to be the magic bullet that no one else knows about.  You have the inside track to be a millionaire!  Who wouldn’t want that?  The problem is most Ponzi schemes are orchestrated by people that others trust.  Trust is a powerful motivator.  When you trust someone with your money, you are giving them a lot of power.  People tend to let their guard down when they trust someone.  That is when people can lose their money.

Here is a great infographic that will explain the Ponzi scheme and show you some of the biggest ones of all time.  It will also give you some warning signs about Ponzi schemes. Always remember that if it is too good to be true, it probably is.  That saying will always be good and it relates to so many things, including Ponzi schemes!


Ponzi Schemes

Infographic via

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Grayson Bell

Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $50,000 in debt. I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a blog management company, along with another blog. It is Empowered Shopper, which helps people get information about products they want to buy. You can also check out Eyes on the Dollar, which is a great blog that I co-own.


  1. May 16, 2014 at 8:34 am — Reply

    Cool infographic. It’s a shame the number of people that get taken advantage of by these things, especially the big ones over the past few years. I’ve read/seen a few things on the Madoff one though and many of the investors readily admitted to not doing their due diligence and just assuming it was natural to see crazy returns all the time.

  2. May 16, 2014 at 8:42 am — Reply

    “Always remember that if it is too good to be true, it probably is.”

    That is the key. You nailed it. People get greedy and forget to think things through carefully.

  3. May 16, 2014 at 9:51 am — Reply

    It’s that get rich quick mentality. Just like a new diet pill that promises fast results with no effort.

  4. May 16, 2014 at 1:27 pm — Reply

    Ponzi schemes remind me of MLM pyramid stuff. You know the send $5 here and the next 3 people that sign up will send you $5! I understand why people fall for it, but I’m glad I’m not one of those people!

  5. May 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm — Reply

    I take a lot of pride in the word I do and the help I give to my clients, but when I see jerks like these guys, I just hang my head in shame. I cannot imagine taking advantage of people and it’s amazing how many people they got to buy into their scheme. But like you said, we love money and we too often look for the easy solution. Great info graphic!

  6. May 16, 2014 at 8:12 pm — Reply

    Cool infographic! One more sign that you might be dealing with a con artist is when they have you make the check payable to them. When it comes to advisors, you should ALWAYS make your check payable to the custodian, not the advisor or the advisors firm.

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