When money orders, sometimes in the hundreds of dollars, arrived on the doorsteps of unsuspecting victims, they thought it was their lucky day. And that what the con artists wanted them to think.
"They were receiving large bundles of counterfeit money orders from West Africa and then divvying up the money orders to send across the country to people that had already been contacted via Internet scams or mail order scams," explained U.S. Postal Inspector Thomas Kingery.
The crooks were counting on recipients to deposit the money orders. When that happened, the scam artists would gain access to the victims' bank account information. Another problem with these money orders: they were counterfeit.
"There is a metallic security thread that in a real money order is woven into the paper on the counterfeit it's just merely printed on the outside," said Kingery.
Also, real money orders have a watermark of Benjamin Franklin on the far, left side.
"On the counterfeits the water mark is actually printed on the outside of the paper, it's not a true watermark where it is visible when you hold it up to the light," explained Kingery.
He adds, the moral of this story is, "There is no such thing as a free lunch."
Be on the lookout for this scam. If you ever receive a suspect money order in the mail, Postal Inspectors say you can immediately take it to the post office and have a clerk take a look at it. They are trained to identify counterfeits.