His name, slightly misspelled, was pasted into the letter, which contained some odd grammatical errors ("Please find whom initiated the agreement"). I could find no company website, and the return email address was a hotmail account. These are pretty good signs that a letter is a scam.
Of course Leo knew nothing about any contract. He would have been happy just to throw the letter away, but I was curious. I called the number enclosed in the letter, only to be referred to email. I emailed firstname.lastname@example.org asking for a copy of the original signed contract. Then I looked up the address of Money Finders, 67 Serenity Court, Franklinville, NJ 08322. I learned that this address has been associated with many different phone numbers and complaints of scams.
To my surprise, the Money Finders folks emailed back, offering to fax the contract if I'd send them a fax number. I responded asking them to scan and email the contract instead, and they responded that they would post it by US mail.
Finally I emailed the writer asking for his name and title and the company's federal tax ID#. I have repeated this request several times with no response.
A few days later I received the "contract" in the mail. Although it was undated, I remembered it from a few years ago. Headed "Account Recovery," it stated in official sounding language that property belonging to Leo had been located and would be returned to him if he signed below and returned the form. There was no mention of a finder's fee. Leo was convinced even then that it was a scam, but seeing no downside I had him sign it anyway and sent it off. The bill,years later, was the only response.
Having received this "contract", I wrote the following email to the sender:
Thank you for the new material you have sent. Unfortunately, it is not a contract. Nowhere on the sheet is there any notice that recovery of the funds will cost money; nor were any funds delivered. Please consider this matter closed.
At this point, all pretense was dropped. Here is the email I received in response:
i guess you dont see the words a 10% fee will be due once you receive your money, people like you amuse you, you scream and holler that nothing was signed than i send and you bla bla me...it will been forwarded to collection on the 1st, i dont care regardless what you do, you obviously are classless and i hope you enjoy be called by collectors and affecting the credit rating
Very businesslike, don't you think?
At this point I filed a mail fraud complaint with the US Postal Service. Perhaps the Postal Service will investigate and prevent more gullible people from being intimidated. Still, I must say, I'm curious about how such a slow and small potatoes scam can succeed.
By the way, this correspondence did inspire me to check for unclaimed property in three states where I've lived. This is easy to do by searching the state government website for "unclaimed property." I found nothing owed me, but did find property including insurance refunds and stock dividends owing to a brother, two sisters, my husband, and both my now-deceased parents. It's worth a look.