Pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes have been in existence seemingly forever. Back in 1920, a man cheated numerous individuals in a fraudulent investment scheme and ended up getting lots of money out of them. His name was Charles Ponzi. Though many people think Ponzi schemes and pyramid schemes are identical, there are some differences.
At some point in their life, most people will be exposed to pyramid or Ponzi schemes. The activity is actually illegal, and most people don't even recognize the fact that they are in one. They can seem like innocent gift exchanges or games. On the other hand, millions of dollars can be lost. With promises of big returns, some people have forfeited money they've saved for years.
Over $65 billion was defrauded from investors by a man named Bernie Madoff in the early 2000's. It was a Ponzi scheme that made headlines.
While attempting to alert the public to online Ponzi schemes and how to avoid them, we’ll also touch on pyramid schemes here.
The main focus of a Ponzi scheme is to offer low-risk profiles with high returns by creating false investment opportunities. New investor payments are actually what funds any returns because the investments don't exist. Most of the money is actually pocketed by the scammer.
There are two strategies to these types of schemes:
- One strategy is as follows – To fund any requests to liquidate, the scammer requires continuous new investor sourcing. Payout requests can be met so that an authentic front is presented, but they are discouraged.
- The other strategy is the continuous deception of investors looking for honest returns. The success of the investment will be “indicated” using fraudulent documentation.
Though some people do mistakenly refer to these as Ponzi schemes, there is a slight difference. In both cases, large returns are promised to investing (soon-to-be) victims. But in a pyramid scheme, rather than making money through passive investment, the investor/victim is tasked with getting additional investors to enter the scheme as well. This is supposed to earn larger sums. Because more and more people are recruited into the scam, the ever-increasing layers of individuals give the scheme it's "pyramid" name.
Online Scams and Schemes
Often disguised as book exchanges or support efforts, social media schemes can seem fun or innocuous. There are phrases and behaviors to watch out for where online scams and schemes are concerned.
- A high-pressure environment is created by some scammers. "Quick! Act now! Don't miss out on this sensational opportunity!"
- A false sense of exclusivity is created by scammers trying to pass off a Ponzi scheme. "I'm only making this offer to a small number of select individuals. You've been specially chosen!"
- Paid actors or others involved in the scheme may tell you they've had large-scale success by offering false testimony. If they’re too forceful or too pushy, they are a scammer.
- If they won't answer any questions about their legal requirements or compliance, they are not an honest investor. They should disclose statements, financial plans, proprietary trading information, etc.
- Scammers will do everything they can to discourage you from getting advice from a third party.
Any time you receive an offer online, be skeptical. Everything can be faked including caller ID displays, website addresses, emails, etc. Even if it's a friend coming to you with a seemingly unbelievable offer, be wary. Scammers may have already hacked their account! Always use due diligence, particularly if you're considering investing a large sum of money.
The best words of wisdom when it comes to Ponzi schemes and pyramid schemes – and you've heard it before – "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!"
Weltz Law – Helping Victims of Fraud
Have you lost money to a Ponzi scheme or a pyramid scheme? If so, Weltz Law can assist you. In securities arbitration and litigation, we have over two decades of representation experience. We understand how devastating it can be when you're the victim of a scam. Contact us today to discuss your case.