Anatomy of a Ponzi Scheme

Charles Ponzi came up with the brilliant idea of paying early investors dividends from the investment money put in by later investors.

It’s as simple as that, and it’s called a Ponzi scheme.

After the first few dividends, promoter disappears, having lured many investors into a fake scheme with no underlying business.

Latest famous example of a Ponzi schemer – Bernie Maddoff.

Or, if you’ve not seen Damages – Season III, that’s about a Ponzi scheme too.

So what lures the common investor into a Ponzi scheme?

Simple. It’s called greed.

What triggers the greed?

The Ponzi schemer concocts a scheme that promises a rather too lucrative return. This return does not look unrealistic, so the average investor’s alarm signals don’t go off. Nevertheless, it’s more than high enough to make the average investor’s mouth water.

And what’s normally promised is a quick return, mind you. The average investor buys smoothly into the idea of doubling his or her money fast.

Then there’s lots of advertisment. Billboards everywhere. The Ponzi schemer wants to hit the public with ads about the tremendous returns.

The sales-people who sell the scheme are glib-talkers. They are smart, wear expensive stuff, basically exuding sophistication. They want to rub it in that they’ve made it big in life.

A Ponzi scheme’s documentation generally cracks under close scrutiny. I mean, when something is being sold to you without any underlying business, all you have to do is your dose of due diligence. Just pick up the phone and start asking questions.

What works for the Ponzi schemer is human nature. The first investors (who get paid dividends from newbie investor money) start talking. Actually, they start bragging. The human being likes to show off. And, the human being hates missing the boat, even if the boatman is a disciple of Charles Ponzi.

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