What is a Ponzi scheme?

Even if they have heard the term used in media reports or even in the movies, some Hoosiers may not know what exactly a Ponzi scheme is.

Basically, a person running a classic Ponzi scheme will get people to invest in a business opportunity that is reportedly relatively low risk yet able to yield a high return on one's investment. The person running the scheme may fabricate reports and the like showing that the investment is doing quite well.

Giving credence to the old adage that it is too good to be true, however, what really keeps the investment afloat is the schemer's ability to attract new investors. The new money basically serves to pay off old investors who want to cash out or are expecting something in the way of a return. The scheme collapses when new investors dry up and more money starts going out of the investment than coming in.

Not surprisingly, Ponzi schemes and related get-rich-quick devices are illegal under Indiana law, and they can also be punished in criminal court using Indiana's prohibitions on fraud and the like. They are a fairly common type of white collar crime.

In some cases, someone who was involved in one of these business ruses may have just been going through some financial trouble and made some terrible errors in judgement as a result. However, not everything authorities think is a Ponzi scheme or pyramid is necessarily so.

There have been some unfortunate cases in which authorities have accused hapless business people of running a Ponzi scheme, when they were really just trying to make a livelihood. In these sorts of situations, a person accused of crimes related to a Ponzi scheme will want an opportunity to explain their actions and to hold authorities accountable to their burden of proof.

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