I GOT an email from Adrian and Gillian this week. Although I didn't recognise the names immediately, I opened it thinking they were friends or acquaintances whose faces temporarily escaped me. This phenomenon is sadly happening more frequently these days - and vice versa, I recognise the faces but can't remember their names.
What a pleasant surprise I got: Adrian and Gillian were writing to tell me of their good fortune. They had just won the massive EuroMillions lottery prize of £148 million. And guess what? They wanted to donate £1.5 million to lil old me! I couldn't believe my luck.
All I had to do was to send them lots of personal details to claim the money. Apparently the couple is so flush with cash that, according to the attached document: we will be giving out a cash donation of £1,500,000 to five lucky individuals and 10 charity organisations.
There is a God, I thought, and my innermost prayers had finally been answered (but where was the other £3.5 million?) However, it turns out that it was not the power of The Heavenly Almighty which brought about my incredible stroke of good luck, but the Earthly Almighty, aka The Google Management Team.
This arcane and august body had thoughtfully submitted my email address to the couple who had then chosen me to be one of the lucky millionaires.
My mind briefly ranged over the various ways in which I would spend my unexpected windfall a villa in the Caribbean for starters, a luxury bungalow and a digital hearing aid for Dad, a lifetime supply of the previously prohibitively expensive Science Diet for Max our Miniature Schnauzer, new cars for the whole family, a state-of-the-art stable block for Nugget and Morgan and, of course, donations to charity. Everybody has to say that.
Naturally I would turn up for work at the Examiner as usual at 7.30am on Monday morning (provided I hadn't managed to sort out the new pad in Barbados by then).
To prove the email offer was genuine and this is where it gets clever there was even a link to a genuine Sky news video and report showing Adrian and Gillian Bayford winning the £148 million and getting showered with champagne.
That part is true, the golden couple from Suffolk did indeed scoop the jackpot in August. The rest was a complete scam. As a spokesman from lottery organisers Camelot said: Remember: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Yet, it always amazes me how many people actually fall for these rip-offs. According to Which, one in every 10 people have fallen victim to financial fraud involving internet scams and cold calling. The criminals behind them are using increasingly clever methods, mixing the lies with a smattering of truth, or hijacking personal social media details to give fake authenticity to their schemes.
I personally hanker after the far less sophisticated so-called Nigerian scams, they are masters of flowery colonial language of a bygone age. Nowadays these have largely been usurped by altogether superior fraudsters.
They go something like this: Esteemed Sir or Madam, Please permit me to make your acquaintance in so informal a manner. This is necessitated by my urgent need to reach a dependable and trust wordy (sic) foreign partner. This request may seem strange and unsolicited but I will crave your indulgence and pray that you view it seriously.
There then follows a verbose explanation of why you should wire thousands of pounds to an African bank account in return for untold wealth or inheritance by return of post. This usually involves millions of dollars trapped in a country which needs your cash to get it out, an oil strike, a terminal illness or restoring a chief to his rightful place as head of the kingdom.
I'll keep checking my emails. You never know, there might be a genuine windfall in one of them. Until then, I'll have to continue looking wistfully at brochures of the Caribbean and shouting at Dad.