fREE ca$H 4 U!!! NOT a scam!

Hey, Henry Kravis: Bergdorf Goodman owes you money; The Observer investigates the Office of Unclaimed Funds—and collects a $5,587 check.

After we mocked him for a while (“Dream on; that’s obviously a scam”), he plugged all our names into various unclaimed funds websites around the country.

“George, you may have some action yourself,” his next email read, followed by a link to a website. It turned out that Daimler Chrysler tried to send me a letter six or seven apartments ago. I’d forgotten all about this stock bequeathed by my grandmother in the early 1990s. “Don’t spend it all on pinball and beer,” she’d advised.

I filled out the requested info (name, current address, social security number, etc.) and imagined receiving a dividend check for $1.98. Another thought occurred: Bruce deserved more than a “Thanks, man.” He said he’d be delighted to take a cut, and he agreed to my offer.

“I’ll take 5% unless it’s a shitty dividend check.”


Less than a week after I filed the claim, hundreds of dollars went missing from my checking account. Staring into space for half an hour, sensing doom, envisioning a return to dishwashing and caddying, I waited for my fiancée to return from Zumba class, then called an emergency meeting to discuss her extravagance and the tough times ahead for us.

We had barely enough to get by until her next payday, most of which would go to rent. Where had it all gone? Huh? Another Peter Hidalgo dress from the Dressing Room?

She stormed outside but then returned seconds later with a big smile and stack of mail. “We have three checks from the government!”

Hers was for $159, something from her health insurance provider in the late ’90s.

After tearing open my first check, I began to tremble. There were four figures. It couldn’t be. The timing, right after our money chat, was too bizarre.

“How much is it, how much is it?!” she shrieked.

A lot. The second check wasn’t bad either. But we didn’t rejoice, jump and down, and hug each other. We sat in silence, unable to process this miracle. It was like an O. Henry story or winning the lottery. No, it was divine intervention.

After the initial shock wore off, we allowed ourselves to feel pretty good about things.

Then cynicism kicked in. Were these real checks? Were they sent by identity thieves buying some time after having snatched my Social? Was this a prank committed by my email group, like in Preston Sturges’s Christmas in July, when Dick Powell’s co-workers trick him into believing he’s won a coffee slogan contest’s first prize of $25,000, which he wants to use to support his mother and marry his girl?

“Of course they’re real. They’re state-certified checks with a hologram,” my fiancée insisted. “Let’s go to Blue Ribbon or Peter Luger!”

Skepticism and paranoia prevailed. Making the deposit at Chase, I worried I’d be apprehended and charged with counterfeiting. Instead, the JP Morgan Chase checks were happily accepted and $5,587.70 was made instantly available. Like magic, our net worth had increased 11-fold. I felt like a newly minted multimillionaire in the big leagues.

My high school e-mail group wondered what I was going to do with the five large. “Ibiza!

Bruce, gracious as ever, declined his finder’s fee (“Keep the Benjamin”). I sent him a documentary about Luna and a great memoir by the band’s leader, Dean Wareham. (Luna’s other genius guitarist, Sean Eden, has an unclaimed fund from Broadcast Music, Inc.)

fREE ca$H 4 U!!! NOT a scam!