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I-Team Consumer Alert: Postal money bounce

Posted at: 03/11/2013 4:55 PM
Updated at: 03/11/2013 6:01 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

Small business owners might be targeted for fraud by scammers using the U.S. Postal Service as a way to gain your trust.

According to U.S. Postal Inspectors, international con-artists are now targeting small business owners with a scheme that could add up to big money. This is a scenario that is actually pretty easy to spot if you're armed with the right information.

News10NBC is talking about counterfeit U.S. Postal money orders.    You see someone pay with one of these money orders, and you might be inclined to trust that it's legit. But be warned, that's what con-men want you to think. But you can guard against this fraud if you see the warning signs.
 
This scam began with an e-mail order placed with a minuteman press store. The order was for fliers and business cards.

Ken Schaeffer, fraud victim, said, "Everything appeared to be legitimate."
 
Then the payment arrived.

Schaeffer said, "We received a postal money order and it was for more than what it should have been."

The owner was told that part of the payment was for the printing expenses. The other for business expenses for the person picking up the order.

Schaeffer said, "He asked us to go to the bank, deposit it, and if we could please take what was left and send the balance to his partner."

Schaeffer did that and a few days later checked his bank account.
The phony money order had bounced.

Schaeffer said, : "A wonderful scammer, par excellence"

In fact, the con-man even sent a second money order and was about to try the same scam. But, by then, Schaeffer was on to him.

Schaeffer said,  "In fact, they had the same serial number on the bottom."

So how can you avoid being a victim?

Blanca Alvarez, U.S. Postal inspector, said, "If it's a postal money order, go to the post office. Ask then to look up the money order and find out if its legitimate."

Schaeffer said, "You feel violated. You feel taken advantage of. You're saying, 'Gosh, I should have known better.'"

Schaeffer ended up losing about $800. Unfortunately, this can be an effective scam because Americans trust the U.S. Postal Service and the perceived security of their money orders.
   
But you can protect yourself. Postal money orders do have security features you can check like water marks and security threads.  For more on these features, click here.