Investors are willing to chance putting money into online scams, even though they're aware of their fraudulent nature.
So says the latest piece of research picked up by the BBC, into so-called High Yield Investment Programs (HYIPs) on the web. More commonly known as Ponzi schemes, these scams offer large returns on investments - but don't actually make any money as such, only the cash ploughed in by new investors, which is paid out to existing members.
That means early adopters can potentially do quite well, providing they can spread the word and help recruit more folks to invest in the fraud. Later investors, however, will see rapidly diminishing returns from their cash, until the scheme inevitably collapses under its own weight, and droves of people are left out of pocket.
Researchers tracked around £4 million per month passing through 1,600 HYIPs scams they monitored over a period of nine months.
Dr Richard Clayton, one of the study authors, noted: "It's not a trivial amount of money," but he cautioned that "running one of these scams is certainly far more lucrative than investing in one."
He did admit: "If we believe that what we see on the net is true, then some people get money back and some get more back than they invested."
Some investors are using tracker sites to monitor the Ponzi schemes, in order to determine their worth, and when to attempt to cash out. Naturally, given their illegal and fraudulent nature, any dealings with a HYIP could leave you badly burned, with no protection where your losses are concerned.
A Financial Services Authority spokesman warned: "Consumers should be wary of any investment offering amazing returns. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."