07 July 2009

but will not just come to you

This is part of a postcard that was in my mailbox when we got back from a short vacation.

Normally when I get bilingual mail, the English is acceptable and the Spanish is deplorable. In this case it was pretty much the reverse.

So... money has been "located in my name." And it's $573.62. "But will not just come to me."

I know this is a scam, but I am interested in exactly how the scam works. So I call the number at the bottom of the card and I am told that the money can come from "various sources" (bills, deposits, inheritances, etc.) but that they cannot divulge the specifics over the phone. When I "come in for my appointment" and "sign the necessary paperwork" they will tell me. Huh! It is what I figured, and the cretin on the phone admits that they take their cut. How much? I don't know because the $573.62 is what I get with their "cut" already taken. 20%? 50%? Probably even more.

I say "thank you, but no thank you" and hang up.

Then I decide to do some online investigation. I find lots of websites that will offer free searches for unclaimed money. I put my name in a search engine on one site and it finds $3,041.84. If I want to find out more about claiming this, I can give them my credit card number and search records for one month for the modest sum of eleven dollars. Then I start reading the feedback from irate customers who say they are getting the runaround about canceling their subscription to search options: three years later they are still being charged $11 a month and, not surprisingly, haven't come up with much money or any.

Eventually I find a comment that makes some sense: don't ever pay to find your own money. The commenter has left a link to a legitimate page where it does not cost anything to search or claim your money. I click on the link for my state, key in my name and city, and come up with nothing. Totally believable. And then... just for the heck of it, I key in my name again, changing the surname to my maiden name. Bingo! Without paying a search fee, I discover that AT&T owes me $75 from several years ago. An address is listed which is indeed a place where I lived at one time, and I am able to download a form and given instructions for claiming the money. No registration fee, all government-controlled and totally legit.

Seventy-five dollars is not going to change my life-style, but it was kind of cool to see that underneath the scam... there really were a few extra bucks. And P.S.: Mr. O. also had a $75 apartment deposit owed him from years ago.

Are you a little richer than you think? Here's the place to find out: http://www.unclaimed.org/

N.B. Don't go to "unclaimed.com"... that's the rip-off site. If you want to read about it, MSNBC has an article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12028200/