Counterfeits cost businesses, consumers millions

Published On: Feb 12 2014 12:52:01 PM EST
Updated On: Feb 15 2014 07:20:00 AM EST

Consumers and businesses are losing millions of dollars because of the increasing number of counterfeit money orders. 

"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," explained EJ Ahmad, a used car dealership owner.

Ahmad is understandably angry, Two customers used counterfeit money orders to pay for a couple of cars.

"We just took that as a payment," he explained "They bought two cars from us, and we were very happy and confident and we didn't think of any problem."

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," Ahmad added.

US Postal Inspector Mark Viggiano explained, "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."

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 water mark 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," he said.

The good news is both of the cars stolen in this case were recovered and returned to Ahmad.  The bad news is both suspects remain on the run. 

By the way, creating a fake money order is a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

Learn more from the U.S. Postal Service on how to spot a fake money order

Learn from the U.S. Secret Service on how to spot counterfeit cash

Learn from the Federal Trade Commission how to spot a fake check (as seen in lottery scams)

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