Counterfeit / Postal money orders scam
Tips for postal customers
Be skeptical of anyone asking you to wire money to overseas bank accounts, or to cash money orders or checks, on their behalf.
Know who you're dealing with--never give out personal or financial information to anyone you don't know.
Familiarize yourself with postal money order security features.
Never wire funds to anyone unless you're sure the money order or check they gave you was cleared by your bank and the funds released.
Ship item only after you have cash in hand.
The best way to identify a genuine postal money order, postal service officials say, is to look for the telltale watermark, which, when held up to the light, should reveal an image of Benjamin Franklin. Genuine postal money orders also have a security strip running alongside the watermark, just to the right. If held to the light, a microfiber strip will show the letters "USPS" along its length.
According to U.S. Postal Inspectors, the scam begins when someone needing help to cash phony postal money orders contacts a victim by e-mail, through an Internet chat room or on-line auction site. Once the bogus money orders are cashed, the victim returns the funds via wire transfer, often unaware they have assisted in a federal crime.
Victims are told they can keep some of the money as a gift or payment for their help, officials said. Unsuspecting victims provide their home mailing address to the scam artist - who U.S. Postal Inspectors call "fraudsters" - and are told they will receive a check or postal money order that they should deposit into their own bank account.
"Scams promising quick and easy money are cast by fraudsters, " said Chief Postal Inspector Lee Heath. "These scam artists can easily connect to a sea of strangers through the Internet and dangle promising treats, hoping someone will bite."
"Don't take the bait, " Heath added.
Such scams can be coordinated from anywhere in the world, but recently many have been conducted from Nigeria.