This e-mail was waiting for me this morning:
To: Whom It May Concern
From: Sir Francis Gulliber, ESQ
You do not know me but I am an English nobleman seeking an overseas partner to complete a mutually beneficial financial transaction.
I am the great-great-great grandson of Sir Dwight Gulliber, the originator of the oft-imitated "conditional inheritance" prank.
Sir Dwight made millions back in the early 1800's swindling greedy investors with a scheme that required a blind-faith infusion of capital "guaranteed" to yield a 1,000 per cent return by satisfying the arcane requirements of a dead relative's mysterious will.
I will spare you the details, but it worked so well, the word "gullible" was coined to describe any person taken in by Sir Dwight's beguiling scheme.
Dwight's son, Sir Austin Gulliber, proudly made a similar fortune using this model.
Sir Austin's son, Sir Donald, expanded the reach to global proportions and stole billions. Sir Donald's only son (and my father), Sir Beverly Gulliber, was too honest to continue the charade and chose instead to devote his life to raising prize heirloom tulips in the English countryside.
He perished from a bee sting outside Sussex in 1970, when I was a mere tyke.
Heartbroken over his son's death and unsure of the path I would choose, Sir Donald sealed his fortune in a watertight trunk and paid an Antarctic explorer to bury the parcel in solid ice far from normal routes. Sir Donald's will stipulates that the money may pass to a direct descendant of Sir Beverly if it is obtained through bribes and trickery, and for this reason, I must purchase the treasure map from Sir Donald's executor with 50 thousand dollars (American), accompanied by evidence that the money was obtained through deceit.
Although it is not in my nature, I have tried. Masquerading as a Nigerian Prince, I sent out millions of e-mails hoping to get at least one person to put up the necessary funds, but to no avail. The worldwide economic downturn has created a parallel plunge in the ranks of the gullible. This is a very bad time to perpetrate pranks of any kind, especially financial ones.
Meanwhile, the Antarctic ice shelf is melting at an alarming rate, and I fear the moment is near when these billions will tumble into the frigid water and sink to the bottom of the sea, lost forever.
Time is running out and I am desperate.
You hold the key to my salvation and your own enrichment. Your check for 50 thousand dollars (American), with a notation on the memo line saying "investment in Heirloom Tulip bulbs", will allow me to convince the executor that I have swindled an unsuspecting overseas "mark", thus earning access to the map and, I am sure, a sizeable fortune that surpasses your initial investment many times over.
In exchange for your co-operation, I will split the inheritance with you, 50-50.
By launching this honorable partnership, we will swindle, not each other, but my devious grandfather, Sir Donald, perpetrating a fraud against his memory that will no doubt echo through halls of justice in the great hereafter.
You can count on me to keep my end of the bargain, as I am as decent and as honorable as you! Please respond by e-mail and I will forward my contact information.
Sir Francis Gulliber, ESQ
This might be legit.
I know it's April 1, but should I do it?