In case you are wondering, this is a true story and one with a happy ending, at least for me. Perhaps Mr Johnson, his nephew, the “troublesome Frenchman” and the “Assemblyman” may have a different take on the outcome.

Yes, I was fortunate. I had the benefit of some advance knowledge, given to me several years ago by a very good friend when I was approached with another “too good to be true” proposition. My friend told me then the basic way in which this type of scam works and so I was prepared to deal with it and I pre-empted the way in which it was intended to play out.

Had I not spoiled their fun, these gentlemen would have, with great reluctance I am sure, allowed me to profit from their windfall – but there would have been a catch. Remember the syringe and the liquid which was dispensed into the basin of water? And remember that these sheets each contained four bills attached together? Well, in order to able to separate the bills, my Ivorian friend would have explained to all of us that he required some more of the magic potion in the syringe in order to separate the rest of the bills in the trunk. The syringe contained only enough for one sheet, enough to authenticate the contents, and he had been quick to empty the basin of water and “magic” potion as soon as he had the bills separated.

The 8 Million Dollar BMW

In the event that I would have expressed any doubt, the trunk also contained a rather official looking card, laminated, displaying the seal of the American president, and explaining that the contents were a gift from the government of the United States of America to be used to ensure that peace in Africa would prevail. The card further explained the way in which the authenticity of the bills could be determined – i.e. using the contents in the syringe in the way that the Ivorian demonstrated. How could anyone argue with the official stamp of the United States Government, and especially if the “Stars and Stripes” of that powerful country also appeared with it??

And here is where the story would have become more than a story. Only the Ivorian would know where and how to get the potion, and the potion would be expensive. And guess what? The Ivorian would not have the money to buy it. Mr. Johnson and his nephew have already given their money to the Ivorian and so they would also not have any money. However, there would be a solution, one which would enable each of us to get what we wanted. I was anxious to sell my BMW. Mr. Johnson wanted to buy it. My Ivorian friend just wanted to get on with his life. So, if I would help them out with some cash, they would be able to buy the potion, separate the bills and pay me for the car (with separated bills, of course), and everyone would live happily ever after, including the person who supplied the potion who had been paid with my very real money!!

There are other variations on this operation. Sometimes the perpetrators explain that the bills have been marked because they are being sent to be destroyed and all that is needed is to “clean” them with the magic potion. This is the scenario that I had been warned about but as you can see the set-ups can be as varied as imagination permits. The perpetrators look for a likely mark – someone who looks like they are desparate (or greedy) for money. In my case, they could see that I was anxious to sell my car.

The lesson for all of us? If you are presented with a situation that sounds or looks too good to be true, take time to consider it carefully. If you are like me, you try to live your life in such a way as to be open to all possibilities but that does not mean that you throw common sense and good judgement out the window. These kind of scams only work because the victims are willing participants.

By the way, the BMW is still for sale if anyone is interested… Any reasonable offer less than 8 million dollars will be considered.