Out clauses can prove to be useful

Maybe this is a cheap way to do it, but I don’t care; if you want to follow through on a resolution, you’ve got to create reasonable out clauses. You don’t tell a friend who you haven’t seen in years, “We can’t hang out, because I resolved to only eat out once a week, and I did pizza with my neighbor yesterday. Try again on Sunday.”

Likewise, I always resolve to be a kinder person. But I’m currently using an out clause. I don’t have to be decent, kind and forthright when the guy on the other end is trying to steal money.

Every day, I get a few email scams. They’re mostly of the Abe Simpson variety (“You give them all of your account numbers, and if one of them’s lucky, you win a prize”), and fall in one of three categories:

• Your bank account has been compromised, and you need to click this link and log in (and hand over your login information so we can compromise it). It’s usually easy to sniff out because I don’t bank there.

• A failed parcel delivery attempt, and a requirement you download the attached mystery file.

• The overseas lawyer who needs a partner to wire a large amount money, but he’ll give you a cut in exchange for your bank account number.

I got the latter Monday. It read, “ Good day. My name is Anthony. I am contacting you again to confirm if you received my previous mail regarding your late family member inheritance. I served as his lawyer for several years before his death and I need you to let me know as soon as possible if you are willing to pursue this claim.”

OK, “Anthony,” I’ll bite. I wrote back, “What? Who died? Why hasn’t my family told me anything?”

I expected nothing back, but I got a little present from “Anthony” after I’d filed my Monday stories. I’ll give you a condensed version:

“Mr. Dickson Wilson was an oil merchant and he had oil dealings around Europe and Africa. He died in 2002 at 54, alongside his wife, Maria, 46, and their only daughter, Katharina, 11.

He said he was going behind the bank’s back to contact me about his quest to find a distant relative for a million-dollar inheritance, and — this is the true gem, emphasis mine — “I feel and know that you will be able to make this claim successfully because of your rare last name.”

My rare last name? I grew up in a town without a traffic light, and my dad was one of two Bob Wilsons; I said, “Sorry, other Wilson,” at least a dozen times to confused callers growing up.

I replied to “Anthony,” asking for details of the death. I’m aiming for 10 emails before he gives up. It’s mean to string him along, but I figure the more time he spends writing me, the less time he has to defraud others.

Oh yeah, it’s also fun. Ah, the power of the out clause.