Here's the Scoop: December 11, 2013

Perfect timing
For most of us, the holidays create pressure, along with the fun. The mythical vise around our heads is tightened by the “need” to purchase gifts for loved ones. Especially for Christmas, the immovable deadline keeps the device turning like a seasonal nutcraker.
On the bright side, I enjoy buying presents. It’s just the “disposable income” part of the equation that causes problems.
Because of this, you can imagine my surprise and delight when I opened an e-mail last week telling me that I should hurry, because there were two boxes of cash just waiting to be handed over to me! Ordinarily, I might be suspect about such a notice, but this one came from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That’s The Man, you know.
My immediate reaction was “Wow, it’s going to be a GREEN Christmas.”
Unfortunately, receiving boxes full of cash is never quite as easy as it’s made out to be in the subject line of an e-mail. This transaction was going to a bit more complicated than picking up some “bread” at a convenience store. I guess that’s to be expected when the government is involved.

NOT APPROPRIATE
I don’t mind a little legwork when it comes to collecting oodles (that’s a technical financial term) of cash from the FBI, but I feel like these highly-trained personnel should NOT be sending out e-mails written entirely in uppercase letters — very unprofessional. Still, the quest for a quantity of easy money kept me reading.
Although it wasn’t technically “fine print” (because of all the capitalization), there appeared to be several strings attached to the quick riches that had been promised. I won’t go through the whole thing, but let’s just say that “my” money was somehow owed to me by the Nigerian government and would have to be authorized by a security company in the United Kingdom. Then — and only then — could I have my cash and shift my holiday shopping into full gear. A minor hurdle, I thought.
Not so fast. Further inspection of the e-mail revealed that it was going to take a bit more than me simply flashing my Press pass to collect these funds. It seems that I’d be required to produce a “certificate of ownership” from the joint team of the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security. While I didn’t think this was going to an easy task, the e-mail from FBI Agent John Gale explained that the certificate “would relieve me of the charges of evading tax” on my good fortune. As long as everything was legal, I was good with this plan.
Oops. Wrote too soon.

Penalties await
The very next paragraph contained the unpleasant fact that, if I failed to contact the FBI within 72 hours, I would be “prosecuted in the court of law for money laundering.”
I was feeling vaguely threatened — and all because I wanted to lay claim to huge wads of cash that were rightfully mine!
Wait a minute, maybe those big bucks weren’t mine after all. A closer inspection of the letter from Agent Gale was not personalized. I could spread a ton of holiday cheer to all my friends with an e-mail blast, with a note explaining that, if they don’t have time to obtain the proper certification to obtain the money, that they should forward the e-mail along to someone who does.
As for those on my shopping list, I guess it’s back to socks — and a much less risky type of laundering.
— Brian Sweeney