The Most Famous Ponzi Scheme: Examining Notorious Financial Scandals

Choose the scheme you think is the most famous!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Apr 19, 2024 08:18
Welcome to StrawPoll's exciting ranking of the most infamous Ponzi schemes in history! These notorious scams have left a lasting impact on the world of finance, and now it's your turn to cast your vote on which one you think tops the list for sheer audacity and infamy. From Bernie Madoff's jaw-dropping billion-dollar swindle to Charles Ponzi's original scheme that started it all, our carefully curated list of contenders is sure to intrigue and entertain. Dive into the fascinating world of deception, broken trusts, and shattered dreams as you explore our lineup of deceitful masterminds. Can't find your favorite Ponzi scheme on our list? Don't worry, you can suggest a missing option and see how it fares among fellow voters. So, join in the fun and cast your vote now to help us determine the ultimate ranking of the most famous Ponzi schemes!

Who Is the Most Famous Ponzi Scheme?

  1. 1
    Bernard Madoff
    Unknown authorUnknown author · Public domain
    Madoff's Ponzi scheme is one of the largest financial frauds in history, with losses estimated at $64.8 billion. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison.
    Bernard Madoff in other rankings
  2. 2

    Charles Ponzi

    Charles Ponzi
    The infamous Ponzi scheme is named after Charles Ponzi, who defrauded investors out of millions of dollars in the 1920s.
    The Charles Ponzi scheme is a type of investment fraud in which a non-existent investment opportunity is promised to investors, with returns obtained from using funds received from subsequent investors. The creator of this scheme was Charles Ponzi, an Italian-born swindler. Ponzi's scheme gained notoriety in the early 20th century and has since become synonymous with fraudulent investment schemes.
    • Origin: Developed in the early 20th century
    • Promised returns: High returns in a short period of time
    • Source of returns: Obtained from subsequent investors' funds
    • Non-existent investment: No actual legitimate investment opportunity
    • Pyramid structure: Dependent on recruiting new investors
    Charles Ponzi in other rankings
  3. 3

    Allen Stanford

    R. Allen Stanford
    Stanford's Ponzi scheme cost investors $7 billion, and he was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
    Allen Stanford was a prominent American financier and sports sponsor who was convicted of operating a massive Ponzi scheme. He promised high returns to investors through certificates of deposit (CDs) offered by his bank, Stanford International Bank (SIB), based in Antigua. However, the funds were actually used to finance his lavish lifestyle and fund other business ventures.
    • Birth Date: March 24, 1950
    • Nationality: American
    • Fraud Scheme: Ponzi scheme
    • Company Involved: Stanford Financial Group
    • Location of Bank: Antigua
    Allen Stanford in other rankings
  4. 4
    Petters defrauded investors out of $3.65 billion in a Ponzi scheme and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
  5. 5
    Rothstein's Ponzi scheme cost investors $1.2 billion, and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
  6. 6
    Shapiro's Ponzi scheme cost investors $930 million, and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
  7. 7
    Stanford's Ponzi scheme cost investors $7 billion, and he was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
    R. Allen Stanford in other rankings
  8. 8
    Frank Abagnale
    Frank_Abagnale.jpg: Marcus JB derivative work: SoWhy · CC BY 2.0

    Frank Abagnale

    Frank William Abagnale Jr.
    Abagnale is known for committing check fraud in the 1960s, but he also ran a Ponzi scheme.
    Frank Abagnale is a former con artist and forger who posed as an airline pilot, doctor, and lawyer during the 1960s. He is considered one of the most notorious impostors in history.
    • Aliases: Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams
    • Birthdate: April 27, 1948
    • Nationality: American
    • Crimes: Check fraud, forgery, impersonation
    • Years Active: 1964-1970
    Frank Abagnale in other rankings
  9. 9
    Lou Pearlman
    Hola53 · CC BY-SA 3.0
    Pearlman's Ponzi scheme cost investors $300 million, and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
  10. 10
    Del Biaggio's Ponzi scheme cost investors $110 million, and he was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Missing your favorite scheme?


Ranking factors for famous scheme

  1. Scale
    Consider the magnitude of the Ponzi scheme in terms of the number of victims, amount of money involved, and geographic reach. Larger schemes tend to attract more attention and media coverage.
  2. Infamy
    Evaluate how notorious the scheme became in the public and media. Schemes that gained significant media attention and resulted in high-profile legal cases tend to be more famous.
  3. Duration
    Take into consideration the length of time the Ponzi scheme operated successfully before collapsing. Prolonged schemes tend to gain more attention as they allow the perpetrator to accumulate larger sums of money.
  4. Prominence of Perpetrator
    Assess the profile and reputation of the person behind the scheme. Ponzi schemes involving well-known individuals or influential figures tend to generate more interest and coverage.
  5. Impact
    Consider the impact of the Ponzi scheme on the financial industry, regulatory landscape, or public perception. Schemes that caused substantial economic consequences, led to regulatory reforms, or triggered changes in investor behavior may be more famous.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most famous Ponzi scheme. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or Scheme is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 170 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each Scheme once every 24 hours. The rank of each Scheme is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most famous ponzi scheme

Ponzi schemes have been around for over a century and are named after Charles Ponzi, who became infamous for his fraudulent investment scheme in the 1920s. Ponzi promised high returns to investors by claiming he could take advantage of differences in currency exchange rates. However, instead of investing the money, he used it to pay off earlier investors, creating a pyramid scheme that eventually collapsed. Since Ponzi's scheme, there have been numerous other high-profile Ponzi schemes that have caused investors to lose billions of dollars. Some of the most famous Ponzi schemes include Bernie Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme, which was uncovered in 2008, and Allen Stanford's $7 billion Ponzi scheme, which was uncovered in 2009. The allure of high returns and the promise of wealth can blind people to the risks of investing in a Ponzi scheme, and it's important to thoroughly research any investment opportunity before putting your money into it. With StrawPoll's extensive collection of polls and rankings, you can stay informed about the latest trends and opinions on topics like Ponzi schemes and make informed decisions about your investments.

Share this article