A Brief History of Ponzi Schemes

From three-card monte to insurance fraud to more sophisticated financial scams, the goal of a Ponzi scheme is always the same—to make a quick buck.

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Apr 15 2016, 12:00am

This article appeared in the April issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

The earliest recorded case of fraud in Western history is that of Hegestratos in ancient Greece, who was reported to have taken out a large insurance policy on a ship he planned to use to deliver corn. He sailed the ship empty and tried to sink it halfway through the voyage, in the hopes of collecting on his policy and selling the corn later. His sailors uncovered the scheme, and Hegestratos jumped overboard to his death.

From three-card monte to insurance fraud to more sophisticated financial scams, the goal is always the same—to make a quick buck. But often that money comes from swindled investors, and sometimes the losses are massive.

This article appeared in the April issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

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