Scam in which gullible public is enticed with the promise of very high returns in a very short time, but is based on paying off the early 'investors' from the cash from (hopefully ever increasing number of) new 'investors.' The whole structure collapses when the cash outflow exceeds the cash inflow. The originators of the scheme, however, usually disappear with large sums a few days before the crash. Named after Charles Ponzi (1882-1949), an Italian immigrant to the US who, during 1919-20 collected more than fifteen million dollars from some 40,000 eager people by promising to double their investment in 90 days. See also pyramid scheme.
Use Ponzi scheme in a sentence