Archived Story

I’ve just inherited 40 percent of $15 million!

Published 12:30pm Saturday, August 13, 2011

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

I just won the Irish national lottery and the British tobacco office lottery. I think the second one is paying me in cigarettes, which might be legal tender in a few months the way things are going. All I have to do is send my bank account numbers to the right places and watch the cash roll in.

Have you received emails like this? Scams that cast a net across cyberspace hoping to catch one gullible fish? Most of them fall under the “Do you think my parents raise stupid children?” heading, but every now and then one looks legitimate, and I fear for the person who responds and gets his identity swiped.

Alexandra Kloster

One of my favorites is from the Right Honorable David Cameron MP, Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service British Government. For some reason he wants to give me money, but first he needs my MasterCard number. Something’s fishy here. I want to trust the man from Downing Street, but I am dubious.

I give this one points for drama and creative math. A man worth $15 million died in a plane crash. All of his kin, right down to his seventh cousin thrice removed were also on the plane. Now, who do you think ended up his heir through some twisted line of succession? Yes, I have inherited 40 percent of $15 million. Seventy percent goes to a “senior bank official” who I have to pay 10 percent before anybody sees a dime. Makes perfect sense.

The names attached to these offers are the best part. One was signed by a Lathrop Zachary. With a name like that, he must be writing me from the pages of a Charles Dickens’ novel or a pouch of posh English pipe tobacco. Two of my other con artist pen pals are named Weak Mandy and Nick Spotlight. There’s no way those two got enough attention when they were little.

These silly schemes don’t worry me, but I do get nervous every time I order something online and I’m asked for the three-digit security code on the back of my credit card. At that point I’ve surrendered my name, phone number, address, credit card number and expiration date all because I need a book about hipster puppies, but it’s that final request that gets to me. I feel like I’m entrusting my future to a stranger, a stranger I envision guarding my digits with a big stick and a scary dog.

Most of us practice little safeguards to assuage our fears about identity theft. For example, I throw my entire body over the ATM machine before I enter my pin number, and my mother’s best friend is her shredder. She won’t throw out anything until she removes the address label and zips it through the blades. “Mom,” I tell her, “anybody can Google that information in seconds. Besides if somebody’s dumpster diving at the end of your driveway, they already know where you live.” She nods and keeps shredding.

It makes me mad that the invasion of the identity snatchers only extends to bank accounts and passwords. They shouldn’t get to be so choosy. If the fake me got stuck with the real me, maybe she’d think twice and move on to someone else.

What if she never again remembered where the car was parked at the grocery store? What if she always figured out a way to stub her toe no matter how large and empty the room she was in? What if she took the dogs out wearing her pajamas thinking no one would see her, but somebody always did? What if she regularly fell up the stairs? What if every day people mispronounced her last name? “That’s a long ‘o’ not a short ‘o’,” she’d repeat over and over wondering why she chose me.

After all, we are more than the sum of our account numbers. We are all kinds of other junk that nobody else would want to deal with. Friends, I have to dash. I just received a letter from a princess who’s stuck in Pago Pago. She’s giving me half her crown jewels if I wire her the money to get back to the Amalfi Coast. If she’s scamming me she’s going to get my money plus my lousy sense of direction and inability to flip an egg. It’s only fair.

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at alexandrakloster.com.