There's never been a foolproof way to get rich, and there probably never will be. But there's a scheme that comes closer than most, and it caught my fancy, even if it hasn't struck the Russians the same way.

Gerre Jones, a newsletter editor hereabouts, wrote in a recent issue of Professional Marketing Report about a Bulgarian-born scientist now living in Italy who regularly "stings" the Soviets -- with mail.

All he does is to write one letter a week to a well-known Soviet dissident. The scientist insures each letter for a $4 fee and sends it by registered mail. His only other costs are stationery, an envelope and some red sealing wax.

Of course, the Russian government refuses to deliver the letters to the dissident. So after a few months, when no return receipt has arrived, the scientist collects $320 in insurance money from the Italian postal service. The Italians in turn bill Moscow, and the Russians pay up -- usually quite promptly, because they are afraid of being thrown out of the International Postal Union.

At $320 a week, the scientist grosses $16,640 a year. He figures he clears about $16,000, once he deducts expenses.

Using this system, the scientist "theorizes that the free world could thus bankrupt the Soviets in a relatively short time . . . with no shots fired, no armies called to duty and no bombers or missiles dispatched on their deadly missions," Gerre Jones reports.

Only one hitch: the system won't work if you mail letters to Soviet dissidents from the U.S. The Russians usually ignore bills that our government sends them for insured, undelivered mail. You would have to launch your weekly missives from a country the Russians consider unthreatening -- like Italy.

Still, for sheer vengeful cleverness, the Bulgarian-born scientist has cooked up a nice scheme, hasn't he?