What if a shadowy organization told you it had been quietly keeping its eye on you and had concluded that you were exactly the sort of person who should be privy to its secrets for wealth and power?
And what if all this could all be yours absolutely free?
"I'd think it was a scam," said Los Angeles resident Jim York, 60, who recently received a 10-page letter from a recruiter identifying himself only as Bill.
The organization, which calls itself the Society, is a front for an Ayn Rand-inspired movement that's been around since the 1980s under various guises, including Neo-Tech, Neothink, Nouveau Tech and Novatech.
The founder of Neo-Tech, Frank R. Wallace, whose real name was Wallace Ward, was a chemist turned author who was convicted of income tax evasion in 1997. He died in 2006 at age 73.
But his you-can-do-it notions — and marketing techniques — live on.
The letter received by York represents one of the more elaborate sales pitches I've encountered. At 10 pages in length, it's nothing if not ambitious.
And its contents, with repeated references to York by first name and suggestions of intimate knowledge of his doings, reflect a hard-sell aggressiveness that make uber-huckster Ron Popeil seem shy by comparison.
York's letter informs him that he's "been on our radar for quite some time."
"It's our business to keep tabs on people. Not for nefarious purposes. But we like to add to our ranks so we can get even stronger," the letter states.
Bill, the recruiter, observes that York is a chip off the old block. "I don't mean to brag," he writes, "but I have all the wealth, power, sex and authority that I will ever need."
Even so, he is "obligated by an oath" to seek the worthiest people to join the Society's ranks, and York is among a relative handful of inductees chosen for this year.
All he has to do is mail the Society's "membership invitation certificate" to a Dallas post office box or fax it to a Dallas phone number, and he'll receive a free copy of the group's secrets.
According to the letter, these include how to make tons of money, seduce whomever you choose, boost your intelligence, get others to like you, beat the odds at poker and lose as much weight as you desire.
Pretty great secrets, right? And not at all the sorts of things that seem designed to catch the fancy of self-esteem-challenged introverts desperate for a sense of popularity and belonging.
The Internet is dripping with comments from people who have received identical letters. But it's no easy task to find the people behind the Society. That Dallas address and fax number, for example, are a blind alley. They're for a Texas company that handles the group's correspondence.
It took some digging, but I was finally able to track down a man who goes by the pseudonym of Mark Hamilton but who is actually the son of Neo-Tech's founder. He operates out of Henderson, Nev.
Hamilton, 55, acknowledged being the current torch bearer for the Neo-Tech movement and the source of the Society letters, which he admitted are sales pitches that lead to people receiving free pamphlets that spell out Neo-Tech ideas in greater detail.
The pamphlets, in turn, are intended to draw people into spending $135.50 for a 1,200-page manuscript Hamilton wrote that he described as "faction — mixing fact with fiction." He said that, like his father, he was strongly inspired by Rand's "Atlas Shrugged."