In 1919, the Italian-American conman and swindler, Charles Ponzi, kicked off a devious plan enshrouded in a tantalising offer: "Give me your money and I will double it in 90 days by investing in very special, very profitable assets."
Except there were no actual assets; he just took money from newer ‘investors’ to pay the older ones. Ponzi started his own company, the "Securities Exchange Company," to promote the scheme, offering outrageous returns of 50 percent in 45 days, or 100 percent in 90 days.
In the first month, 18 people invested in his company with a total of USD 1.8 K. He paid them promptly, the very next month, with the money obtained from the newer set of participants. For over a year, the whole thing worked like a charm. Until it didn’t.