Money order scam foiled by concerned clerk

Long Pine, NE, Retail Associate Charity Fay

Long Pine, NE, Retail Associate Charity Fay

When an elderly customer in Long Pine, NE, repeatedly sent money orders via Certified Mail to an address in Florida, Retail Associate Charity Fay evaluated the situation and told the woman that she was likely the victim of a scam. The woman accepted that conclusion and agreed to refrain from sending any additional money to the recipient.

The following week, the elderly woman sent several additional money orders to the same recipient via Priority Mail Express. Fay concluded that the woman didn’t fully understand that she was the target of a scam, so the concerned associate contacted the Postal Inspection Service for assistance.

A postal inspector visited the woman and her husband at their home and explained the situation to them. That’s when the husband told the inspector that they’ve lost approximately $40,000 in the last 10 years to scams.

While the elderly victims aren’t able to recover the majority of their losses, Fay’s concern for the welfare of her customers allowed the Postal Inspection Service to recover $965 that the woman recently sent to scammers.

Scammer Foiled by Vigilant Employee

Retail Associate Kelly Stover.

Retail Associate Kelly Stover.

Ocean Shores, WA, Retail Associate Kelly Stover became very concerned when an elderly man came into the office and said he wanted to mail cash. Kelly suggested he get a money order, but the man said he was told to either wire the money or to send cash.

The man did not say what the money was to be used for or how he had come into contact with the person requesting it. Stover convinced him to send it by Certified Mail and to be sure his return address was on the envelope. The customer agreed and Stover accepted the mail piece, which weighed about four ounces.

She notified Postmaster Mark Williams of the incident who in turn contacted the Postal Inspection Service. Stover was advised not to put the piece into the mail stream. The Postal Service contacted the man’s wife who asked that the envelope not be sent. She came to the office and retrieved it.

It is not known how much money was in the envelope, but Postal Inspectors are certain it was a case of fraud.

Seattle Postal Inspector Michelle Brooks praised Stover, “Our people do a great job for the community, often going above what they are required to do. This definitely made my day.”

Scammers Target Online Auctions

Scammers target online auctions

Online auction sites are a popular way to buy and sell merchandise when a garage sale just won’t do. Some auction sites are more secure than others, however, and scammers are on the prowl for unsuspecting victims.

One of the most widely used auction scams involves fake checks and money orders. An individual that wants to sell a vehicle, boat, or other high dollar item will list it on a chosen auction site. A scammer will then e-mail the seller and express interest in the object. Claiming that he or she is unable to personally inspect the item, the scammer will request digital photos of it.

Soon after the photos are sent, the scammer responds by offering the full asking price of the item – plus an additional small amount for the seller’s inconvenience. The extra is meant to ease any misgivings the seller might have about the sale and prompt the person to accept the agreement. The scammer will then mail a cashier’s check or money order drawn from what is likely a fictitious financial institution with an additional amount for transport expenses.

At this point, the seller is instructed to wire the transportation fee to the individual or company responsible for picking up the item. The transportation fee is where the scammer obtains the ill-gotten gains.

When the seller wires the transportation fee, the money comes straight out of his or her account. The check or money order sent by the scammer doesn’t bounce for several days, and by the time it does, the transportation fee is already in the greedy hands of the scammer. In more extreme cases, it’s also possible that a brazen scammer could pick up the purchased item as well, leaving the seller without the item or transportation fee. This would effectively cause the seller to pay for the scammer to steal the item.

When dealing with online auctions, always make sure your bank verifies a check or money order before accepting it as valid payment. If a buyer pitches you a story similar to the one above, use extreme caution to protect yourself from becoming a scammer’s next victim.

What other advice would you give others to prevent them from becoming victims of fraud?

Real Fake

Many people are tightening their belts these days to adjust for challenging financial times. While the landscape of job quantity and availability will continue to change, one approach to employment twists artistic talent into an illegal craft.

Scammers can appear anywhere at any time, and there’s no shortage of schemes they’ll weave to take what someone has no matter who they are or what resources they have. Scammers want money, and they’ve become increasingly skilled in their craft to make fake financial instruments look real. The best way to stop them is to become armed with information.

Here are a few ways to identify real Postal Service money orders from fake ones:

–   When held to the light, a watermark of Benjamin Franklin is repeated from top to bottom on the left side.

–   When held to the light, a dark line (security thread) runs from top to bottom with the word “USPS” repeated.

–    There should be no discoloration around the dollar amounts, which might indicate the amounts were changed.

If anyone approaches you with a Postal Money order that you suspect may not be genuine, call the U.S. Postal Service Money Order Verification System at 866-459-7822 to verify its authenticity.

Have has anyone ever given you a fake financial instrument before? Comment here.

  • Hello, I'm Benny the Blogger: I'm the world's most famous postal employee. My hobbies are snappy quotes, kite flying and publishing. I was born Jan. 17, 1706, but don't call me old.

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