A note of caution about odd letter

IT'S probably safest to start this story with a warning; there is every chance the information below is part of a scam.

But if it is, it's a highly unusual one and unlike anything we have seen before.

Yesterday I received a hand-written letter from someone claiming to be Jessica Eshun, a 29-year-old with “general” hobbies.

The envelope was franked “By air” and was postmarked in Ghana.

Inside the hand written letter was a crisp, new, US$10 note.

Everything about it raised suspicion. We suspected the note was counterfeit, there was no return address – just an email one, and there was every expectation that a request for money would follow, but it didn't.

All Jessica – if that is her name – asked for, was to be put in contact with people who might like to be pen pals. There's not a lot of harm in that.

I asked one of our ad reps, Lincoln Burton – an American by birth – if he could authenticate the note, but he said he hadn't seen the more recent US notes and couldn't help.

I then took the note to the Bananacoast Credit Union and staff there believed it was genuine, but couldn't confirm it.

So I then took it to the Commonwealth Bank and staff there checked it against US currency they had in stock, but it didn't match.

But with further checking we found the note was more recent than their stock, so staff checked other identifying features (later US notes have fine thread weaved into the paper) and found it was genuine, but because of the cost of conversion and the exchange rate at the moment, was probably worthless.

But it was real and, just as there is a risk that it could be part of a scam, it could also be that Jessica is legitimate and simply wants a pen pal.

We won't judge, but we would advise if anyone takes up the offer and corresponds with Jessica (her email address is printed in the letter), if there is ever a request for money, to sponsor a visa application or something similar, get out of there fast.

And if you do turn out to be her pen pal, let us know.

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