Too good to be true is too good to ignore

08/18/2013 7:54 AM

08/18/2013 7:54 AM

“Congratulations!” said the faintly accented voice of a woman at the other end of the phone line.

It’s a pleasant enough way to begin a conversation.

“For what?” I responded.

“You’ve won a prize in the sweepstakes.”

“What sweepstakes? I don’t know what you’re talking about. The only thing I’ve entered is a drawing for a free trip to next year’s French Open tennis tournament.”

“What is your age?”

I told her.

“And your wife’s age?”

“The same.”

“The second prize is $500,000,” she said.

“And you’re the second place winner. Congratulations! Do you still live at…?

The address she read was ours.

“Will you be at home between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock on Monday?

“We can be,” I said.

“Good. A courier will appear between those times,” the woman said. “I will connect you now with attorney Fine.”

“Who’s that?” said my wife, who had joined us on the call.

“He is in Buffalo. Stay on the line and I will connect you.”

Several moments passed in silence.

“Hello,” said a man’s voice.

“Get his phone number,” my wife said, “and tell him our lawyer will be in touch.”

I waited for the question. Would he ask for my bank account number? Or would it be my Social Security number? Or possibly what credit cards I carried?

Again, silence.

“Hello,” I said. “Are you still there?”

With a click, the connection ended.

Nothing further was heard from the lady with the accent.

I would be lying, though, if I said I didn’t make a point of being at home and awaiting the courier on Monday.

I wasn’t counting chickens, but 500 grand will get a person thinking.

It was a nice round figure. And I’ll confess to giving some thought to the various enjoyable ways in which one might dispose of such a sum without being too ostentatious about it.

Monday came. No courier showed.

I looked on the Internet for a lawyer named Fine in Buffalo, N.Y. There was a firm with a Fine as one of the named partners, so I dialed the number listed.

All I got was attorney Fine’s voice mail.

That should have ended it. But new means of spending a half-million kept coming to mind.

A couple of days later, the phone on my desk rang again.

“Is this Gusewelle?” asked a man’s voice. This time it was the

real

Fine.

“Yes,” I replied.

“It’s a scam,” he said. “They’re just using my name. And some people have already been burned.”

“Too bad,” I told him. “But, of course, I knew it from the very first call.”

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