Ask Andy: Counterfeit money orders

By Andy Wise - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A fake money order scam is circulating involving counterfeit money orders sent from overseas.

Bob Vieno, a target of this scam, said technology makes it hard to tell if the money orders are real or counterfeit.

"It looks so real," Vieno said.  "I mean it really does."

Vieno answered this door and signed for a FedEx package for his wife from someone in Colorado.

Tucked inside the package was a handwritten note that said, "check e-mail for instructions," and two $950 money orders.

Vieno did his own investigating.

"This person doesn't exist," Vieno said, "or at least that person doesn't exist at that address."

M. J. Romano, a US Postal inspector, detailed the package and examined the contents.  He said legitimate postal money order have recognizable security features.

"Looking down I should not see that," said Romano.  "As I'm holding this under these lights, I can already see Benjamin Franklin.  I shouldn't see Benjamin Franklin until I hold it up to the light."

Romano believes it is an over-payment scam that originated overseas.  He said the person who sent the money order to the Vienos was also a victim who was lured in by an online, work at home opportunity.

"They believe their job is to stay at home and get paid for basically taking packages that come in through one courier," Romano said.  "Repackage that, then send it out from their address via another courier."

Vieno never received additional instructions.  However, he would have been told to deposit the money orders in his account, keep some and wire the rest.

The scammers would also get his personal information.

Vieno did not take the bait.

"There's no time frame on this thing," Vieno said.  "Six months from now you can go to the bank and you had $3,000 in there and it's gone."

Another feature to check to ensure a money order is authentic is to check for a security thread embedded in the paper, not just pasted on top.

Romano said money orders are safe, but if you get one from someone you do not know there's a good chance it is counterfeit.

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