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Can I recover money from 1976 bond scam?

Dollar caught in hook © SCOTTCHAN/
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Dear Dr. Don,
Back in 1976, there was a chain letter scam involving savings bonds. I got caught up in it. You could buy a bond for the person at the top of the list and you were then supposed to receive many more in return. I purchased a savings bond for someone but got cold feet and decided not to take it to the next level. All these years later, I still have that bond. How do I go about cashing it and getting my money back?

— Charles Chillyfoot

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Dear Charles,
Wow! You’ve kept that skeleton in the closet for a long time. You are correct. These chain letter pyramid schemes were popular, and also illegal, during the ’60s and ’70s. It’s good you didn’t follow through.

A Series E savings bond purchased in 1976 stopped earning interest in 2006, after 30 years. The interest isn’t an issue, though. The best you can do at this point is to get your money back. You can fill out form PD F 2966, Special Bond Of Indemnity By Purchaser Of United States Savings Bonds/Notes Involved In A Chain Letter Scheme. Once you have the form, you can get it signed by a certifying officer.

You also must provide evidence that you purchased the bond(s). Such evidence includes a copy of the purchase order; a statement from the issuing agent that accepted the order; the canceled check used to purchase the bond; or a copy of the chain letter bearing your name.

You’d have to agree to a bond of indemnity without surety to the U.S. government for seven times the face amount of the Series E savings bond. That’s to protect the government in case the owner of the bond has actually already redeemed it. Savings bonds are registered with the government. So even though you have the bond in your possession, the owner may have found a record of the bond, replaced it and redeemed it.

If you spent $37.50 for a $50 Series E bond back in 1976, you’d get that small amount of money. But you’d still be out the expenses associated with the refund process. Is that really worth it? I’d suggest you chalk this one up to experience and not pursue a claim.

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