Ponzi scheme

A Ponzi scheme is a form of fraud that lures investors and pays profits to earlier investors with funds from more recent investors. The scheme leads victims to believe that profits are coming from legitimate business activity, and they remain unaware that other investors are the source of funds. A Ponzi scheme can maintain the illusion of a sustainable business as long as new investors contribute new funds, and as long as most of the investors do not demand full repayment and still believe in the non-existent assets they are purported to own.
Some of the first recorded incidents to meet the modern definition of Ponzi scheme were carried out from 1869 to 1872 by Adele Spitzeder in Germany and by Sarah Howe in the United States in the 1880s through the "Ladies' Deposit". Howe offered a solely female clientele an 8% monthly interest rate, and then stole the money that the women had invested. She was eventually discovered and served three years in prison. The Ponzi scheme was also previously described in novels; Charles Dickens' 1844 novel Martin Chuzzlewit and his 1857 novel Little Dorrit both feature such a scheme.
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