The Ponzi scheme has been a recurring fixture of economic life in rich and poor nations at least since the 19th century, creating a few millionaires and ruining the lives of millions. Yet most people have only a vague idea of what they are, which may explain why so many continue to fall for their strange and almost mystical allure. This topic, of course, has acquired a certain urgency because of the recent global financial crisis and headlines about the Bernard Madoff scandal, the biggest ever Ponzi scam, which occurred at the height of the turmoil.