Counterfeit Money Orders

Should you accept a money order as payment for goods sold online? How do you know if it’s real? Identifying counterfeit money orders is easy if you know what to look for.

Online fraud artists have been using counterfeit and worthless checks for years. However, in recent years, there’s been an uptick in the use of counterfeiting U.S. Postal Service money orders. The quality of what these con artists are producing is very good and ordinary consumers can easily be fooled. This scam is also prevalent on online auction sites like eBay, bulletin boards and email solicitations.

According to the F.B.I. and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, in the six month period from October 2004 through March 2005, forgers in other countries – such as Nigeria, Ghana and Eastern Europe – have renewed their interest in the United States postal money order. In just three months, October 2004 through December 2004, more than 3,700 fake U.S. Postal money orders were intercepted. This number exceeded the total number of captured counterfeit U.S. Postal money orders for the previous 12 months.

Image of counterfeit money orders

Counterfeit Money Order Arrests are on the Rise Worldwide

During the same six month time period, October 2004 through March 2005, at least 160 arrests were made in the U.S. The people arrested were suspected of deliberately receiving counterfeit U.S. Postal money orders and/or trying to cash them. Unfortunately if you’ve been a victim to any of these individuals your money and/or you product is long gone.

Most of the time the counterfeiters are not the ones trying to use the U.S. Postal money orders. Instead they’ve focused their efforts on contacting would be victims using email or via an online chat room. They try to trick victims into taking the fake U.S. Postal Service money orders in exchange for items their selling on places like eBay or Craigslist. Sometimes they even get people to cash the money orders in return for a fee that they’ve promised them. Bogus financial instruments have been used over and over again in many different flavors of the same basic Internet scheme.

According to the United States Postal Service they’re not able to approximate the dollar value of the counterfeit postal money orders they’ve intercepted. Some experts guess the total amount could run into the millions of dollars.

This increase in activity is worthy of note due to the security measures taken to help ensure U.S. Postal money orders are hard to fake. Dissimilar to private business checks or even other money orders created by banks, the U.S. Postal money order has watermarks, security threads and a rainbow of inked patterns and tones.

Small Internet Retailers and the Public are Favorite Targets for Money Order Counterfeiters

The lack of consumer common sense has led to counterfeit U.S. Postal money orders being used to purchase goods/services from small Internet retailers, classified advertisers or others lured into an Internet con scheme, from sellers of antiques to exotic and classic automobiles. They’ve permeated every corner of commerce.

The U.S. Postal Service inspectors say they’ve been working with global delivery companies, like Federal Express and UPS, to catch packages containing phony money orders as they enter the United States. They also communicate to financial institutions, asking them to “keep an eye out” and continue to be vigilant. You can find tips for identifying counterfeit postal money orders online, , at

How to tell the difference between genuine USPS postal money orders and fake ones

U.S. Postal Service Money Orders have security features that distinguish them from other financial instruments. Learning to recognize them will protect you from being victimized by the scheme. Postal Money Orders have special inks, watermarks, and security threads. The two most prominent security features can be viewed by holding the money order in front of a light source. Look for these features:

  • A watermark of Benjamin Franklin, the oldest and one of the most famous signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, is visible on both the front and reverse side of the money order when held to the light.
  • A dark security thread running (top to bottom) to the right of the Franklin watermark, with the tiny letters “USPS” facing backward and forward.

counterfeit money order identification

The Postal Service issues domestic and international money orders. Domestic Postal Money Orders cannot exceed a value of $1,000. They are distinguished by their green, yellow, and blue colors. Most counterfeit Postal Money Orders are domestic, with a face value of $750 to $950.

International Postal Money Orders are printed in pink, yellow, and gold and cannot exceed a value of $700. There has been an increase in counterfeit international money orders printed with values of $500 to $700.

How Counterfeit Money Order Scams Work

In a typical counterfeit money order con, the person selling an item is sent counterfeit postal money orders that together amount for more than the cost of the item being paid for. The buyer then asks the seller to keep the cost of the purchase and ship back the difference between what was sent and what was owed, in cash, along with the merchandise. This is also known as a Nigerian Scam because many of these types of scams have originated in Nigeria or other African nations.

These scams have become very sophisticated recently and there are all kinds of variations. If you want to ensure you aren’t accepting a counterfeit money order, never accept one from a stranger unless you have some way of verifying its authenticity. You can also protect yourself by being smart and watching out for warning signs such as offers to pay more than something is worth. Paying attention to “red flags” instead of ignoring them can save you a lot of grief…and money.

Seller beware!

Counterfeit Postal Money Order Scam Links

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15 Responses

  1. Georgia Smith says:

    I deposited 2 money oders into my bank for payment for a computer posted for sale on craigslist. Now I,have a block keeping me from opening a checking account. How do I remove the block?

    • Mckenzie says:

      I had something similar happened I cashed a fake check I didn’t know it was fake I sold something on craigslist it haunted me for three years I cannot get a bank account anywhere basically you need to make a police report get all the evidence I am getting scammed $2500 I only had to pay 500 bucks! What’s I know it’s a lot of money but it’s better than $2500 Pretty much actors made an attempt to collect some of the money and they made a deal with me to pay 500 once I had that took it off and explain the scam I was able to get a credit card I was able to get a bank account again

  2. Lori Gonzales says:

    I have had 5 Nigerian scammers this week wanting to buy my dresser listed on craigslist, Yesterday law enforcement intercepted the first fake money order in route to me in Caldwell, ID, intercepted at Spokane, WA, today a woman calling herself lovely Mary texting a $3,000 fake money order is coming to me today UPS (the first was USPS), these people are really dumb, I am to keep my $399 and pay the shipper the remaining amount of $2,700, (like I am going to do that!) not really sure where to take these fake money orders?

    • Bruce Vanderhoef says:

      I had the same exact scam, I was selling an organ on Craig’s list, they mailed me a counterfeit cashiers check wanted me to send them back, apx $1500. For movers, I suspected fraud so said so at bank before I showed them check, I kept playing the game with the scamers, I now have, 9 bad checks, and no law enforcement is interested, I have 12 different text numbers, they have been calling me, but seems to be coming thru bad connections, all this in less than 2 weeks, putting all checks on coffee table for conversation piece

      • Paulo says:

        I just got the same type of message. I’m selling some musical equipment and they offered to send a cashiers check but with an extra amount (almost $1300 more) for movers. At first I didn’t know what to think but I thought it was weird. I decided to back off on the deal after reading about these scams.

        • Hary says:

          Same thing happened to me , now the person threatening me that he made an complaint in FBI and local CAI . I didn’t get the cheque cashed . They sent me a cheque of $1980 for just an old used furniture of $300 . What did you do with the cheque ?

  3. Michele Hartge says:

    I have the same thing happening I fear. Posted sofa for sale on Craig’s list – phone number texted me next day – outside of Ohio. Got text today they will not give me their names I have asked.. but was told today that $1500.00 cashier’s check being mailed today. When I receive I am to keep my $300 for the sofa, plus $50 for “my trouble” and then they will provide me with instructions for shipper.. I responded back and expressed concern with very large shipping amount – text is full of grammar and spelling and after ?? the shipping cost was told that the shipper is picking up 2 branded truck what the heck does that mean? also said they work in “MARINE” yea ok… so I have a tracking number and will not be expecting this to be real. So far have two different text numbers

  4. Petalpusher says:

    Thank you everyone on listing this information. I have something listed on Craigslist and a woman (supposedly) has sent me a Wells Fargo Money Order via UPS for more than it is worth plus $100.00 for my trouble. Then I have been given all this shipping information as to her shipper. After reading all of your comments my guess is that all this is fake. I called WF and asked that if I cash this will they be protected and they said they would know if it is fake or not. Hmmmm…
    I am not certain that this is for real.

  5. bowflexseller says:

    I just recently had the same scam pulled on me and almost fell for it I put my Bowflex on Craigslist for 450.00 and got a response within 1 hour from a Richard via text offering to buy, to make a long story short he is sending a cashiers check usps for 2100.00 which I am supposed to keep my 450.00 once the check is cleared and then he will send me info on where to send the rest for the moving company he has arranged to pick up the Bowflex. I am waiting on the check and then I will take it to the bank and tell them what is going on tell them I believe it is a scam and let them handle it.

  6. JustinK says:

    I posted my apple watch on Craigslist and got a reply from a number literally 30 min after the post saying saying he’s located in New York and he’s “out on business” and wanted me to hold the item for him and he’d send me $50 extra dollars for doing so. I sent him my address and told him I would hold it for the extra $50. He gives me a tracking number and says the check was on the way. I get to my mailbox yesterday and the check is written for $1,850! I told him how much he sent me to confirm he knew the amount and then he tells me that he wants me to send the remainder of the money to his “delivery service” and gave me the information to where I’d need to ship it, but when I asked where I need to ship the watch he said his “agent” would come pick it up? The check looks like a normal check, but I just find it very weird that they would pay over $500 for a watch that they could get brand new at an apple store for $500. If you have all that money why not just go get one instead of going through the trouble. I haven’t cashed the check yet because it’s sketchy, but if he’s having someone pick it up after I cash it then I don’t see how I can get scammed. Will someone please tell me how I could get screwed here?

  7. Scott says:

    I just recieved a money order for $970 and another for $800, for helping to run “errands” for a guy that is out of state. Broken English all over the emails. No physical items are being purchased. Anyone know how this one works?? Oh, and he also wants me to send the money order itself back to him once it’s cashed. Anyone heard of this routine??

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