Money Order Scam?
August 24, 2010 10:00 AM   Subscribe

My coworker received 2 money orders via USPS priority mail today. They were in 2 different amounts, both addressed to him. The address and name on the FROM section of the money order were from a different name and state than the return address on the mail. He did not recognize either name or address. What is going on?

He called the person listed on the return address, and they said that it was a church and that their credit card had been stolen and they were aware of fraudulent charges. The FROM address on the money order is a cable company. What should he do? How would someone make money from this scam?
posted by elvissa to Law & Government (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Since they were sent via the USPS, the best route to take is to contact the Postal Inspection Service. Doubly so if the money orders appear to be issued by the USPS.
posted by zsazsa at 10:07 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

It could be a variation on a overpayment scam where fake or stolen money orders are sent out to be cashed by a unsuspecting mark.

They thief might expect your friend to cash the checks, get cash, and then come out of the woodwork to say a mistake has been made. They then would ask for the money back as a personal check or cash or real money order before the banks had an opportunity to find out the checks were fake or stolen.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:12 AM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding bottlebrushtree. Don't cash them!
posted by Mwongozi at 10:37 AM on August 24, 2010

i received soemthing like this. i think it's a scam to get your bank info once you deposit it.
posted by UltraD at 10:38 AM on August 24, 2010

Classic scam. It takes longer than most people realize for these to actually clear your accounts. Usually, the scammer sends the mark a fake money order and says, deposit this money order for $5,000. "Send me a check for $4500 to (address in foreign country, frequently Canada or Scotland, for some reason). And you keep the "extra" $500 as your fee for this service you're providing me. Easy money!"

Eventually the bank realizes these are fraudulent and then the money disappears from your account (it was never really there in the first place) and you are in the Hell of 1,000 Overdrafts. You can report it to the Post Office for attempted mail fraud, but very little will happen. Rip it up, burn it. Run away.
posted by Buffaload at 10:50 AM on August 24, 2010

This is from UPS, but is relevant:

If you have received an unexpected check or money order, you should assume it is fraudulent. You should also be extremely cautious if you receive a check or money order for an amount greater than the expected amount. You may be contacted by e-mail with a request to cash or deposit the money and return a portion of it using Western Union or other means. The fraudster will advise that you keep a portion of the money, which is less than generous considering the original check is probably fraudulent. Even the bank may initially believe the check or money order to be legitimate, only to discover the truth later and return it to you for repayment.

As zsazsa said, contact the Postal Service.
posted by bgrebs at 10:51 AM on August 24, 2010

"To report a fraud complaint, call the Fraud Complaint Hotline at 1-800-372-8347 or visit the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Web site at"
posted by ericb at 11:01 AM on August 24, 2010

I've been hearing about these. The criminals will print fake money orders and send them to you. Expect a call in a couple of days from someone saying they sent you the money on mistake, and ask you to remit it back minus a fee for your trouble.

Report this to USPS and don't agree to anything the mysterious man who will be calling you asks for.
posted by reenum at 11:04 AM on August 24, 2010

Easiest thing to do is probably take them to the local Post Office associated with the delivery ZIP code, ask for the Postmaster, and hand them over. He can pass them to the Postal Inspection Service. If it were me, I'd try to get some sort of paperwork or at least the name and contact information for the Postmaster and pass it on to the people at the church who had the credit card stolen, and then wash my hands of it.

Your coworker could file a complaint himself, but since he's not really the defrauded party it might confuse everyone. To me it doesn't really seem like filing a complaint would be his responsibility; he just received the things. Handing them in to the Post Office would be about the most that I think anyone can expect of him.

I would not destroy them, in any event, unless told to. Nor would I cash them, obviously; it's probably illegal to cash a M.O. for which you know you're not the intended recipient, and it's certainly unethical.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:55 AM on August 24, 2010

This happened to my husband once! The cops didn't really know much and were like "contact the FBI", we figured it was a run of the mill Craigslist type scam. We were in the middle of a move and dealing with a newborn at the time so we didn't follow up.

A few months later both his credit cards were compromised (both bank/debit and major CC, but their fraud prevention caught it right quick) so maybe he was on a list somewhere? A large online bicycle parts company was the only place he'd given both cards to, but we could never know for sure. Do tell your coworker to watch out for that.
posted by kpht at 12:32 PM on August 24, 2010

kpht: It was Nashbar, wasn't it? They "lost" a bunch of credit card information a while back.
posted by indyz at 1:29 PM on August 24, 2010

You should be able to tell what institution issued them and, after looking up the number from an independent source (don't call the number printed on the money order), you should be able to call the issuing institution and verify that they are genuine.

That said, I think Reenum has hit the nail on the head with mechanics of this likely scam.
posted by VTX at 5:50 PM on August 24, 2010

Easiest thing to do is probably take them to the local Post Office associated with the delivery ZIP code, ask for the Postmaster, and hand them over.

Be sure to phtotcopy them for your own records.
posted by ericb at 6:18 PM on August 24, 2010

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