sk sk

NBS warning: What is a pyramid scheme, airplane game or Ponzi scheme?

Don’t be deceived!

Have you ever been tempted by investments offering spectacularly high returns? Was it an interesting investment opportunity but one that you did not fully understand? Was further information available only if you paid a membership fee, made an upfront investment, or recruited others as new investors? Such offer is very likely to be a pyramid scheme fraud (also known as a plane game or Ponzi scheme).

What to watch out for

1. Does the investment promise returns that seem excessive?

The higher the return, the greater the risk. Be careful and consider whether the promised gains are realistic. Check the internet to see what returns are offered by rival companies and whether the return in this case is not improbable. Be particularly on guard against offers of guaranteed returns.

2. Find out about the company offering the investment

  • Check for whether the company is supervised by Národná banka Slovenska or any other foreign supervisory authority, and whether it has authorisation to conduct such business in Slovakia.
  • Check NBS warnings for whether NBS has issued any warning about the company.
  • Check where the company has its registered office. Be suspicious if the registered office of a company offering services exclusively online is in a tax haven or outside the European Union.
  • Find out about the company on the internet. Check online discussion forums to see whether consumers are complaining about the company or have lost money by investing with it.

How pyramid schemes work

Pyramid schemes work on the principle that the money you invest is used mainly to pay those who have made upfront payments before you and are waiting for the return on their ‘investment’. A large share of the money is used to enrich the management at the top of the pyramid. The scheme continues until no more payouts can be made, i.e. when no new investors can be found, at which point the scheme collapses.

What to do if you become a victim of a pyramid scheme

  • Immediately inform the police or public prosecutor based closest to where you live.
  • Inform Národná banka Slovenska. NBS cooperates with the law enforcement authorities. Although NBS has no power to recover your money, it may issue a public warning and thus help other consumers.


  • Never conclude a contract for a financial product or service (such as, for example, a loan, insurance policy, investment, savings vehicle or pension scheme) other than with an entity authorised to conduct such business.
  • Before investing with an unknown company, consider whether you are prepared to risk losing all your investment.
  • Don’t take decisions under pressure and take time to think over any investment offer. Respectable companies will never urge you to decide.
  • Such investments are not covered by the Investment Guarantee Fund and if, for example, the company is dissolved, the investors will most probably never get their money back.
  • Be on particular guard against products/services not subject to NBS supervision.

National Bank of Slovakia
Communications Section
Imricha Karvasa 1, 813 25 Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Tel.: +421-2-5787 2142, +421-2-5865 2142, +421-2-5787 2169, +421-2-5865 2169

Reproduction is permitted provided that the source is acknowledged.