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Sorry, Rex Tillerson isn't offering you a $1.85 million ATM card

Commentary: The Federal Trade Commission warns of an email scam that suggests the secretary of state is participating in a big giveaway.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Poland

Not quite that generous.


The State of the Union is currently rather generous, some might say.

There have been tax cuts for the American people and very big tax cuts for the country's favorite people -- corporations, that is. Employees of many companies, which include some at tech firms, have received $1,000 bonuses.

In a recent email, someone has apparently suggested the spirit of generosity extends to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the email says Tillerson will send you an ATM card with $1.85 million on it if you provide a little information.

The FTC, whose job is to protect consumers, also warned the email was a scam. 

"Someone pretending to be Secretary Tillerson says you're owed a payment," the FTC notes, adding "he knows about [the payment] because of an investigation by the FBI and CIA."

Honestly, there seem to be so many investigations involving the FBI and CIA these days that I wish the scammers had at least specified which one.

A clue, though, to the email's sheer, naked scamminess is that you have to send in $320, along with some detailed information about yourself, to qualify for the card.

Some might be more bothered about the $320 than the personal information. After all, we readily hand the latter over to Google, Facebook and the like every day.

But who is going to give you $1.8 million for just $320? That sounds even too absurd for "Shark Tank."

An FTC spokesman told me the agency isn't aware of anyone having been fooled by the scam. But the agency wants people to be aware of its enticing existence.

The FTC also wants anyone who gets a tempting email or call to ask themselves these two questions:

  1. Did they say you've won a prize, owe money, or might go to jail?
  2. Did they say that you can get the prize – or get out of trouble -- if you pay them money right away?

If the answer to either is "yes," then don't believe it for a moment.

And I thought it was an American tradition not to believe anything the government tells you.