Ponzi schemes, tricks and scams!
Sep 26, 2023
Season 5 | Episode 4

Ponzi schemes, tricks and scams!

We'll teach you how to slam those scams!

Listener Kaitlyn was talking to her dad about investments and things strayed into the world of Ponzi schemes. Kaitlyn’s wondering what they are and how they work — good question! Bridget and Ryan want to answer Katilyn’s question but the topic conjures up some bad memories for Ryan. Luckily they get some help from Brenda Hammer, lead investigator from Bridget’s favorite show, “Scam Slammers!” Brenda uses her expertise and investigative skills to help Ryan pick out where he went wrong in the past and give some good tips for avoiding scams our listeners (even young ones!) might encounter in their everyday lives.

Tips for grownups listening to “Million Bazillion” with kids

Money Talks

Let’s keep the conversation going! Try some of these Money Talks prompts with your kid(s) at home:

  1. What do you think about the idea of “investing” money after listening to this episode?
  2. What are some of the signs that someone might be trying to scam us? What information might they ask?
  3. Bonus Not So Random Question: What’s an okay amount of allowance to get as a kid?

Tip Jar

  • The reason we call certain types of investment scams “Ponzi schemes” is because of Charles Ponzi. He scammed people out of millions of dollars in the 1920s. Look through this list of some of the biggest swindlers in history and talk about why or how they got people to trust in their scams.
  • Not all investing is bad, if your kid is interested in investing, explain treasury bonds to them and how they work.
  • Demystify some of the language around investing, from “risk”, “stock market,” “rate of return,” and of course “Ponzi schemes.” Check out this glossary on investing to look up these terms and any others you may come across in the future.

Gimme Five

Grownups — did you try to explain an economic or money concept to your littles and it only left them with more questions? Tell us about it using this online form.

This episode is sponsored by Greenlight. (For a limited time, get $10 when you sign up for a Greenlight account at greenlight.com/MILLION).

Million Bazillion: S5 E2 Manic Recession Script/Transcript


Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Scripts may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it




Cold Open:




RYAN: Hey, Bridget, whatcha watching?


BRIDGET: Oh, just my favorite show, Scam Slammers.


RYAN: Scam Slammers? What’s it about?


BRIDGET: Every week on Scam Slammers, consumer advocate Brenda Hammer

investigates frauds, malfeasance and ripoffs. When she finds a scam, she slams it!


BRENDA (LIKE JENNY MOOS FROM CNN): These unfortunate motorists thought they were buying brand new tires. But they got SCAMMED.  Turns out these tires weren’t made of rubber. These tires were made of…CHOCOLATE.




RYAN: What? Why would someone buy a chocolate tire?


BRIDGET: Shhhh, she’s gonna explain.


BRENDA: When did you realize you were driving on chocolate tires?


SCAM VICTIM: I drove my car five minutes and at a stoplight, the tires started melting in the sun, Brenda.


RYAN: But wouldn’t it be obvious you were driving on chocolate tires? Tires are black. Chocolate is brown.


BRIDGET: Chocolate is sometimes white too.


RYAN: So? Tires aren’t white!


BRIDGET: What about white wall tires?


RYAN: That’s not what these people thought they were buying.


BRENDA: We paid this not-so-sweet tire salesman a visit to SLAM HIS SCAM!




BRIDGET: Oh, buckle up! Brenda’s about to slam this dude’s scam!


BRENDA: Excuse me sir, have you been selling your customers chocolate tires?


TIRE SALESMAN: Yeah, but read the contract. The fine print says, “We reserve the right to sell you tires made of chocolate.” It’s in there!


BRENDA: (INCREDULOUS) Sir, I doubt that’s in the contract-


RYAN: Sorry, I’m hung up on chocolate tires. Why chocolate? If I was gonna sell people fake new tires, I’d just use old tires, not chocolate.




BRENDA: With this tire con man’s lies and alibis screeching to halt, we successfully slammed his scam!




BRIDGET: Whooo hoo!


RYAN: Ok, but explain how the chocolate part works again.


–Theme Music–


RYAN: (STILL TALKING) I mean were they little chocolate chips formed into the shape of a tire? Or just a big chocolate circle? Oh wait, we’re back on…  Welcome back to Million Bazillion. I’m Ryan.


BRIDGET: I’m Bridget. And We Help Dollars Make More Sense. Let’s hear today’s question.




KAITLYN:  Hi, my name is Kaitlyn. I am 9 years old. I live in San Diego, California. My question is, what’s a ponzi scheme?


BRIDGET: Oooo, this is a really good question, Kaitlyn. Let’s find out what inspired this question:


KAITLYN: My dad and I were talking about the stock market and its average rate of return. He said there was no guarantee that the value would go up. He then mentioned if someone promised a high rate of return, it could be a Ponzi scheme. I didn’t really understand it at all.




BRIDGET: Wow, sounds like you and your dad talk about some pretty smart stuff. Not sure even I can explain it all, but I’ll try. Before we get into this “Ponzi Scheme” that Kaitlyn’s dad was talking about, let’s talk about investments. “Investing” is using the money you already have to make more money. There are a lot of ways to do that. Like. …pretend someone has a great idea for an ice cream business…


SFX – Dreamy transition sound + Mux


ICE CREAM PERSON: My big idea is that all the ice cream flavors will taste like pizza! Pepperoni, Cheese, Pineapple and Ham!


INVESTOR: I LOVE that idea! I’ll lend you the money you need to start your business! [SFX: ka-CHING/COINS]. If you succeed, you can pay me back this money I’ve loaned to you, AND some of your profits!


ICE CREAM PERSON: It’s a deal! You won’t regret it! Your rate of return is going to be huge!


BRIDGET: When people invest money, they hope they’ll MAKE money. That they will get a RETURN on their investment.


ICE CREAM PERSON: Hey! Everyone is loving my Pizza flavored Ice Creams. Sweet and savory, together at last, and we’re racking in the cash! Here’s your share of the profits.


INVESTOR: Bazinga! Now that’s a good investment.


BRIDGET: But there’s always a risk they’ll lose everything they invested.


ICE CREAM PERSON: Aw nuts! Looks like it was a bad idea to go all in on a Meat Lovers Supreme Ice Cream flavor. I’m going to have to close the business.


Investor: But my investment! Nooooooo!


SFX Dreamy Transition out


BRIDGET: That’s how REAL investments go. Some are safer than others. But all investments come with a risk. Now, a Ponzi scheme is a FAKE investment. People THINK they’re investing in something, but they’re actually being tricked. The leader of the Ponzi scheme isn’t using the money for the idea they said, they’re just keeping the money for themselves.


RYAN: So, if your pizza ice cream example turned out to be a ponzi scheme, there would be no actual pizza flavored ice cream being made at all?


BRIDGET: None. Which is a tragedy. Because it’s a great idea.


RYAN: (SHIFTS SERIOUS) Bridget, before we get into this episode, there’s a secret I must confess.


BRIDGET: A secret? What kind of secret?


RYAN: My secret is: I didn’t always struggle with money in the chaotic, bumbling manner audiences have come to love in seasons 3 through 5 of Million Bazillion. Quite the contrary, I was once a very rich man.


BRIDGET: (SURPRISED) Really? Uh, really?




RYAN: Yes, and with one investment folly, I lost my great wealth in a Ponzi scheme to a man named Ernie Tradeoff.


BRIDGET: Ernie Tradeoff? I read about him in the news. He convinced people to invest with him. But his “investments” were all lies. Instead, Ernie Tradeoff scammed people out of billions of dollars.


RYAN: Yes, including me. You see, dear Bridget, as a rich man, I owned shiny rings, an airplane’s wings, and many other fancy things. But having so much money left me vulnerable to wanting more, more. I started investing my money…unwisely. It all began in June of the year 2000…




RYAN: I was young and on on top of the world-




BRIDGET: I’m so sorry, Ryan. I totally forgot we need to take a quick break.


RYAN: Oh. Yes. Yes.


BRIDGET: But it sounds like you know exactly what a Ponzi scheme is, so YOU can be our expert for this episode! So we’ll hear Ryan’s tale of woe and learn more about Ponzi schemes when we come back.


–Asking Random Kids NOT SO Random Questions–


ANNOUNCER: And now it’s time for Asking Random Kids NOT SO Random Questions. Today’s question comes from Trip in Connecticut. The question is: What’s an okay amount of allowance to get as a kid?


RANDOM KIDS: “An okay amount of allowance to get as a kid is $9 a week.” “You can’t get too much money or else it wouldn’t be fair.” “I think kids should get paid $505 a year because kids put in a lot of work and sometimes they wanna buy stuff with their own money.” “Probably like $20 a month. Then you get a lot of money in a short amount of time, but then you can decide if you wanna save it or invest it.” It shouldn’t be a lot of money and it shouldn’t be a little money. You should get maybe like $5.” “A million bazillion dollars.”


ANNOUNCER: That was Asa in Maryland, Ava in Minnesota, Benjamin in Austin, and Melody, James and Emiliano in California. This has been Asking Random Kids Not-So-Random Questions.


Part 1:


BRIDGET: Welcome back to Million Bazillion. Today, we’re answering Kaitlyn’s question: what is a Ponzi scheme? And Ryan was about to tell us a story about how he lost all his money in one. So, where were we, Ryan? How did you lose your money in a Ponzi scheme? Actually, back up even further, how did you have so much money in the first place?


RYAN: Oh, you remember the old commercial jingle for Granny Abby’s Frozen Beets?


BRIDGET: Oh, yeah! (SINGS)

Granny Abby’s Frozen Beets, 

heat  them up for yummy eats!


RYAN: Yes. That jingle. Well, as a child actor, I sang that theme and got a little bit of money every time it played on TV, which was a lot. By the time I was 20 years old, I had, believe it or not,  one million dollars  in the bank. And that’s when I met… Ernie. I remember it like it was yesterday.







RYAN: There I was, strolling into a party on my Razor scooter, showing off my freshly frosted tips.


FRIENDS: Whoa, Ryan sweet tips. / Cool  hair!


RYAN: Thanks. Just had my tips frosted today. It cost so much money, but truth is, I have so much money, I don’t even know what to do with it.


ERNIE: (FRIENDLY) Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear you have money to spare. Might I suggest you entrust some of it with MY investment firm?


RYAN: Entrust it to an investa-o-who-how?


ERNIE: Like a company that handles investing it in the market, so that your money grows. That’s how the rich get richer. They put their money to work. (CATCHES HIMSELF) Sorry, I’m giving away valuable money tips here and haven’t even introduced myself. Name’s Ernie Tradeoff, the best investor in the biz. My returns are, like, literally unbelievable.


RYAN:  I’m Ryan. I’m a naive 20-year old dreamer.


ERNIE: Nice to meet you, Ryan. Frosty tips, my dude.


RYAN:  Thanks. I got most of my money in Apple right now. It’s been working pretty good for me. They’re developing some kinda phone that’s “smart”. Sounds kinda cool.


ERNIE: You want my advice? Pull your money out of Apple. It’s too risky! Invest with me. I can offer you high returns, with no risk! I can make you a fifty percent return on your investment, guaranteed.


RYAN: Wow, sounds awesome, but I’m still not sure.


ERNIE: Mmm, look.. I don’t have time for indecision. The waitlist to invest with me is too long actually. You probably wouldn’t  even qualify.


RYAN: Wait, wait, wait, wait,  I may know nothing about money, but like I said, I got a lot of money I don’t know what to do with.


ERNIE: Well,  I’m well known and well trusted in all the money circles. Everyone knows Ernie Tradeoff. Anyone who is cool has their money invested with Ernie.


RYAN: You convinced me, Mr. Tradeoff. I’m pulling my money out of Apple right now, pleeeasse let me invest it with you.


ERNIE: (RELENTING) Oh ok, you convinced me. Here’s the, uh, routing number for your wire transfer: 7..8..2..9..1..




RYAN: And, just like that, I’d invested most of my life’s savings with Ernie Tradeoff. From then on out, every time I called him, he’d tell me how great my investment was doing.


BRIDGET: Were you ever suspicious that Ernie’s whole operation was a scam?


RYAN: Not until eight years later, when I went to visit him at his office one day.




RYAN: Hi, Ernie.


ERNIE: (SURPRISED) Oh, hey. Ryan. What are you doing here?


RYAN: You said I could stop by the office anytime to check on my investment. I’m curious where my money is.


ERNIE: Trust me, your money is safe and your investment is growing stronger by the day.


RYAN: Wow, so even with that major financial crisis I’ve been reading about lately, the value of my investment keeps going up?


ERNIE: Yah huh.




ERNIE: It’s just that good of an investment! It never goes down, only goes up! Well, Ryan, thanks for stopping by.


RYAN: That’s not all, Ernie. I need to pull a little bit of money out. $100 thousand dollars for a down payment on a house.


ERNIE: (BEAT) You wanna pull money out… for a house? Ryan, baby. Real Estate is way too risky! You should keep that money with me, it’s way safer. I wanna make money for you, but I can’t do that if you don’t give me anything to work with.


RYAN: I’ve given you all my money to work with for eight years.


ERNIE: Yeah, and I’ve doubled it, tripled it, quadrupled it.


RYAN: So why can’t I take a little out?


ERNIE: Uhh, the money computers are down. Besides, you need to let the rest mature, my dude.


RYAN: Mature into what?


ERNIE: Mature into- ugh- Your money’s tied up right now in a big deal! An important deal. It’s too complicated for you to understand.




PAUL: Hey Ernie!


ERNIE: Pau! How’s it going? Come on in. Ryan. This is Paul, a new investor.


PAUL: I got that $100,000 check. I’m ready to invest with you.


ERNIE: Super! Hey, Ryan. Great news, $100,000 thousand dollars of your investment has uh, matured so I can send that over to you. It’s not from Paul, by the way. It’s your investment money. Not Paul’s money. To be clear.




BRIDGET: So when did you know for sure Ernie was stealing from you?


RYAN: Not until a year later, I ran into him on the street. He was being put into a cop car by police officers.






RYAN: Ernie what’s the matter? Is everything ok?


ERNIE: RyGguy, baby! Everything’s great! These cops are buddies of mine! I told them I always wanted to take a special ride for fun in the backseat of a cop car, so they arranged this surprise for me. Thanks, cops!


COP: Mr. Tradeoff. To be clear,- I am not your buddy, this is not a special ride for fun. You are under arrest for fraud and have the right to remain silent….


RYAN: Ernie. My investments. Are any of them real?




ERNIE: (PAUSE) No. There are no investments. The computers aren’t even hooked up. Some of them aren’t even computers. They’re just cardboard boxes painted gray…


RYAN: Wait, wait. What happened to the money I gave you?


ERNIE: I spent it on luxury cowboy boots! It’s my weakness!


PAUL: (RUNNING UP, OUT OF BREATH) Hey it’s me, Paul. I came as soon as I heard the news!


RYAN: Oh, hi Paul.


PAUL: Ernie, what happened to the money I gave you?


ERNIE I gave it to Ryan to make him think his investment was doing well.


PAUL: So whose money is in my account?


ERNIE: Another investor, named Peter.


RYAN: Ernie, you robbed Paul to pay me and robbed Peter to pay Paul?


ERNIE: Yeah, I guess you could put it that way.


COP: Alright, pal. Get in.




(HARP glissando)


BRIDGET: Wow. Then what happened?


RYAN: Ernie was tried, found guilty and went to jail. Turns out I was just one victim of his Ponzi scheme. He was taking my money to make it look like other people’s investments were doing well and taking their money to make it look like my investments were doing well. And whatever money he wasn’t juggling around was going into his own pocket.


BRIDGET: Oh, so when Paul invested with him and he suddenly was able to give you a big payout from your investment…that was just because he suddenly had Paul’s money to use.


RYAN: Exactly. And he always had money around to make you think your investment was working, but if too many people tried to take out too much money, his whole plan would collapse. And eventually, like all Ponzi schemes, it did.


BRIDGET: So what happened after that?


RYAN: I never saw my money again. Never heard from Ernie. Too bad. He was a nice guy. I liked him a lot. Just wish he hadn’t stolen all my money.


BRENDA: If you’d have called me, I could have helped you SLAM his SCAM!




BRIDGET: Brenda Hammer from Scam Slammers, my favorite show? What are you doing here? And what are you doing up in that tree?


BRENDA: When I’m not slamming a scam, I linger in public parks, just waiting for people to talk about being scammed so I can step in and help. [THUD] Ooph.


RYAN: Wow, that was like watching a small and elegant bobcat fall flat on its face.


BRENDA: And now I’m going to go over all the classic signs of a Ponzi scheme that you MISSED!




BRIDGET: Wait! We have to go to a break! Man, I’ve really got to get better at timing these things. But uh, when we come back, we’ll learn some classic signs of a Ponzi Scheme!




Part 2:


RYAN:  Ok, so welcome back to Million Bazillion. Today we’re talking about Ponzi schemes, here in this public park, with consumer advocate and mid-day television superstar, Brenda Hammer! Brenda I think lives in trees, or at least spends a lot of time in their branches, AND she’s going to tell us how to spot a Ponzi scheme!


BRENDA: I’m gonna slam that scam! And teach you how to do it too!


BRIDGET: Brenda, I’m such a huge fan of all the scams you’ve slammed.


BRENDA: (A LITTLE CONFUSED) You’re a fan of the scams?


BRIDGET: No. I said that wrong. I’m a fan of you slamming the scams.


BRENDA: I’ll be keeping my eye on you. But you, Ryan. You gotta be a little bit more wiley about the people you’re investing your money with.


RYAN: Tell me about it!


BRENDA: You fell for a classic Ponzi scheme and all the signs were there. Let me tell you exactly what you missed, (MUSIC: NEWSMAGAZINE MUSIC) with the help of my trusty hand bell!




BRENDA CONT: If someone promises that their investment idea is going to make you MORE money than investments usually do, it could be a sign of a scam!



ERNIE…Sorry, I’m giving away valuable money tips here and haven’t even introduced myself. Name’s Ernie Tradeoff, the best investor in the biz. My returns are, like, literally unbelievable.




BRENDA: Normal investing won’t usually double or triple your money!


RYAN: So you’re saying investments never make you a lot of money?


BRENDA: Some investments could have higher returns, but that also comes with more risk- and I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout no board game! If someone promises high returns with no risk that you’ll lose all your money, that’s another sign of a Ponzi scam!



ERNIE: You want my advice? Pull your money out of Apple. It’s too risky! Invest with me. I can offer you high returns, with no risk! 




BRENDA: Remember kids, if someone says “no risk,” you say “no way!”


BRIDGET: Oof, that bell. I can actually FEEL my brain ringing.


BRENDA: Another thing. Most investments will return less money if there are other problems in the economy, like a recession or a financial crisis. That’s what all those squiggly money charts on TV keep track of! If returns don’t dip when the economy does, that could be another sign you’re dealing with a Ponzi scheme scammer!



ERNIE: It’s just that good of an investment! It never goes down, only goes up!




BRENDA: If an investment sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.


RYAN: Yep, I fell for one that was too good to be t–


BRENDA: (SNAPPING) I’m not done! Here’s another big one. If an investment is too complicated to understand, or the people running the investment won’t share information with you, walk the other way!



ERNIE:…ugh- Your money’s tied up right now in a big deal! An important deal. It’s too complicated for you to understand. 




BRENDA: If understanding your investment feels like trying to solve the riddle from a bridge troll, that’s another sure sign of a Ponzi scam!


RYAN: Wow,  Really should’ve seen it coming.


BRENDA: Well now your listeners can at least. Tell them to listen back to your tale of woe and see if THEY can identify all the warning signs [SFX LOUD HAND BELL CLANG]  of a Ponzi scam!


BRIDGET: So Brenda, most of our listeners aren’t old enough to make investments on their own–


BRENDA: True! But Ponzi schemes are just one kind of scam to look out for. As long as people have had money, scammers have been trying to take it. And with the internet, it’s easier than ever to scam. I, personally, don’t even have internet. I get all my information from behind trees.


BRIDGET: So what kind of other scam “red flags” should our listeners look out for now?


BRENDA: Oh boy, where do I start! The first sign is –


BRIDGET: Oh, wait! We’ve got to take a water break! We’ll be right back! 



RYAN: Oh, uh we’re back, and we’re well hydrated! Back again with Brenda Hammer, who’s teaching us all about scams. And… arguing with a squirrel.


BRENDA: (YELLING, OFF-MIC) Those peanuts are mine, not yours, Thomas!




BRENDA: I’ll tell you how I know the difference. My peanuts are shelled!


RYAN: Uhh, scams… Including the ones that our listeners might come across sooner rather than later. So Brenda, I have another question. In that show you did about the chocolate tires, how were people able to drive on the chocolate tires?


BRIDGET: Ryan, please let’s stay focused on the subject of this episode. So Brenda, you were going to share some other tips for avoiding scams, for our listeners.


BRENDA: Oh boy, don’t get me started. Whether you live in a mansion, or live amongst the trees like me, you could fall victim to scam. Here are a few of the most common ones..If someone texts you a link, don’t just click on it! Especially if you don’t know the sender…or even if it IS someone you know, but they seem to be acting strangely.




BRIDGET: Oh, hey, it’s a text message from our friend Gladys! She runs a hardware store, we haven’t heard from her in a while. Huh, weird, she says she’s changed her life by investing in Crypto and I should click this link so I can invest too. She never struck me as a crypto-type.




BRENDA: Slam that scam!


BRIDGET: Hey! My phone!


BRENDA: It might LOOK like it’s from Gladys, but it sounds suspicious to me! That might not be Gladys at all! That link could corrupt your device with malicious malware. (SHEEPISH FOLLOW-UP) Mal means bad. And here’s another one!  If someone calls you or texts you asking for your social security number, credit card number, bank account numbers, or passwords, don’t give ‘em a thing!  It’s a sure sign of a scam! They’re just phishing for information!


BRIDGET: Fishing… like on a boat?


BRENDA: Yes. But spelled with a P-H. Like PHONY. Or PHOENIX. Or… PHARRELL. (REGAINS TRAIN OF THOUGHT)  And if someone tries to offer you a great prize if you share a little bit of personal information, don’t do it!




RYAN: Hold on, sorry I ‘m getting a phone call. Hmm, don’t recognize this number. (RING STOPS) Hello?


PHONE VOICE: Congratulations, Mr. Perez! You’ve been selected to win a marvelous vacation package.


RYAN: Bridget, Brenda! Totally off topic from the scam thing, it appears I’ve won some kind of contest I don’t remember entering and will be receiving a very nice prize. This is coming JUST in time for me. (INTO PHONE) Hello?.  How do I claim my vacation?


PHONE VOICE: We just need your social security number.


RYAN: Sure thing, it’s 2…4…


BRENDA: Don’t give them any info! It’s a scam!, Give me that phone. (INTO PHONE) Hello?…. Your scam has been slammed! Don’t call back!




RYAN: Hey, my flip phone! That cost $30, Brenda!


BRENDA: You were on your phone too much anyway! Try taking in nature for once! Be like me, talk to a tree! Whisper your secrets into their bark.


BRIDGET: Wow, so it seems like there are a lot of ways for people to be scammed that aren’t just Ponzi schemes.


RYAN: Yeah, including that chocolate tires thing that I still have questions about-


BRIDGET: But unfortunately, we’re out of time. Thanks for telling us all about scams, Brenda. Can we get a selfie with you?


BRENDA: Sure, but this better not be some kind of scam!


BRIDGET: Oh no, it’s just a selfie. Say cheese!




BRIDGET: Ok, how bout one where we all hold up our the front and back of our credit cards ?




BRIDGET: I’m kidding, I’m kidding. A little scam humor. (GULP) We’ll be right back.


BRENDA: Scams are serious, Bridget! Scams are not for jokes, maybe you need a timeout to look at a tree…


BRIDGET: We’ll be right back.





Part 3:


BRIDGET: Ok, welcome back to the show.  So I know this episode hit close to home for you, Ryan, seeing as how you lost a lot of money in a Ponzi scheme. What would you say we learned about them today?


RYAN: Well, I think we learned th-


BRENDA I think we learned that Ponzi schemes


BRIDGET: Oh, Brenda. You’re still here!


BRENDA: Yes, wherever scams are being discussed, there I shall be also. Ponzi schemes  involve a scammer taking money, saying that they will invest it, but just pocketing it. Like sometimes how tree squirrels take my peanuts  for themselves.  But Ponzi schemes are just one kind of scam you gotta look out for in this world. When it comes to your money, you gotta be careful about who and what you believe.


BRIDGET: Thanks, Brenda, we’ve got it from here! Since the beginning of people having money, others have tried to get some of that money through dishonest means. But don’t be afraid to invest your money, when you get to the age you can do that. Just make sure you do your homework on what you’re investing in. Know the risks. Don’t invest more than you can afford to lose. And remember, it’s possible to lose a lot or all of your money in a totally honest investment.


RYAN: That’s right. And it’s never too early to practice avoiding scams, whether you invest or not. Don’t believe everything you hear, especially if it sounds too good to be true. Always check in with your grown up if someone’s asking for personal information. And don’t be ashamed if you get tricked! It really does happen to the best of us.


BRENDA: Wait a minute! You haven’t truly learned something until you’ve learned it through song!





There’s people out there who are not being true

There’s people out there who wanna scam you

They’ll put on a big show and tell ya, “Step right up, step right up…”



Step right up and listen to a promise of great riches

If you’ve some money, then lemme toss a few pitches

Of quick and easy cash, the secret I can’t wait to tell you

and if you fall for that one, well I got a bridge to sell you


There’s multi-level marketing schemes and scams of confidence

The Spanish Prisoner or the rich Nigerian prince

They’ll promise easy payouts for a little cash advance

“You better buy in now ’cause this may be your only chance!” 


But they’re so full of baloney

You’ve gotta learn to spot a phoney


Like a

a varietal of Ponzi that’s called a Pyramid  scheme 

It works just like Ponzi but you have to form a team

of recruits paid by recruits paid by recruits one layer under

until the it falls apart and dreams of wealth are torn asunder

There are many scams just like this, so it pays to be on guard

Money’s rarely earned so easy, it’s more often earned quite hard

But easier to keep if you don’t fall for frauds and cheats

These are lessons Brenda’s learned parks and in the streets


BRENDA: (SPOKEN) Hey, wait a minute Thomas! Stop stealing my sandwich! That’s my sandwich! Chase that squirrel! Corner him! He can’t get far on foot!


BRIDGET: OK, wow, we’re chasing a squirrel though the park! This show is completely off the rails!


BRENDA: I think your show is just starting to make sense!


RYAN: Oh no, now the squirrels are chasing after us! Hundreds of squirrels coming after us! The tables have turned! Brenda, what do we do?!


BRENDA: Quick, I know an underground tunnel that will get us out!




BRIDGET: Phew! We made it out safe, Brenda. Well, thanks for helping us out today, it’s been interesti-



When you see a scam,

You gotta say, “Wham!! Bam! No thank you, ma’am!”

You’ve got to slam that…





–Theme Music-




BRIDGET: Thanks for listening to this episode of Million Bazillion! If you have a question you want answered, please send it to us at our website, marketplace.org/million.

RYAN: Sign up for our email newsletter if you haven’t subscribed already. You can do that at our website too! Then you’ll know every time we’ve got a new episode out AND get some conversation starters so you can keep those money talks going!

BRIDGET: Next week we’re going to take a little break, but we’ll be back with all new episodes of Million Bazillion the following weeks. Consider listening back to your FAVORITE episode of this show while you wait.

RYAN: Million Bazillion is brought to you by Marketplace, from American Public Media. This episode was written and hosted by (me,) Ryan Perez. Bridget Bodnar is my co-host and the director of podcasts at Marketplace.

BRIDGET: This episode was also voiced by: Kimberly Adams, Sabri Ben Achour, Samantha Fields, Lily Jamali, Chris Julin, Matt Levin, Francesca Levy, Jeff Peters, and Daniel Shin.

RYAN: Jasmine Romero is our editor. Courtney Bergsieker is our producer. Nilou Shahbandi is our intern. Our sound designer is Chris Julin. Bekah Wineman mixed this episode.

BRIDGET: Our theme music was created by Wonderly. Francesca Levy is the Executive Director of Digital at Marketplace. Neal Scarbrough is the Vice President and General Manager.

RYAN: Million Bazillion is funded in part by the Sy Syms Foundation, partnering with organizations and people working for a better and more just future since 1985. And special thanks to The Ranzetta Family Charitable Fund and Next Gen Personal Finance for providing the start-up funding for this podcast, and continuing to support Marketplace in our work to make younger audiences smarter about the economy.

BRIDGET: If Million Bazillion is helping your family have important conversations about money, consider making a one-time donation today at marketplace.org/givemillion, and thanks for your support.

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The team

Ryan Perez Co-Host
Bridget Bodnar Co-Host
Chris Julin Sound Designer
Jasmine Romero Editor
Bekah Wineman Media Producer

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