Taking Action Against Scams: Beware of counterfeit money orders

Posted at 7:02 PM, Mar 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-17 19:02:42-04

“I got a call from both banks. Hey what are you doing? Are you doing a fraud? Excuse me? What`s going on? They said, 'Well the money orders you have deposited are fake.'”

A used car dealership owner is understandably angry. Two customers used counterfeit money orders to pay for a couple of cars.

“We just took that as a payment. They bought two cars from us, and we were very happy and confident and we didn`t think of any problem,” says EJ Ahmad, a fraud victim.

Ahmad says the suspects shopped his car lot and found an Acura and Jeep Cherokee they liked.  They put down a deposit of $9,000 in money orders for both cars.  The total sale price was $12,000.

“So far, we never had any problems with the postal money orders so postal money order was considered like cash,” says Ahmad.

“He agreed they could take the cars home that night, because they lived locally and they would be back the next morning to complete the transaction,” says Mark Viggiano, a U.S. Postal Inspector.

The suspects never returned and Ahmad was on the hook for the full $12,000 lost.

Postal inspectors say counterfeit money orders are a growing problem and somewhat easy to distinguish from the real thing.

For instance, there is a metallic security thread woven into real money orders.

On a fake, it`s printed on the outside.

Also, real money orders have a watermark of Benjamin Franklin on the far left side. On a counterfeit the watermark is printed on the paper.

Ahmad says from now on, he won`t treat money orders like cash.

“We should have done probably little more research into and know exactly what they were doing,” says Ahmad.

Both of the cars stolen in this case were recovered and returned to Ahmad, but both suspects remain on the run.  Creating a fake money order is a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.