Money Order Scams

My good friend, Denise Richardson of Give Me Back My Credit just sent me a link to a story that I think all of you should read.

I love that the author starts off by calling this a case of the clueless banks, because this is the way that I have felt for years. When we were hit with our Counterfeit Cashier’s Check Scam, which works the same way as the Money Order Scam the author talks about in this story, our bank told us that the cashier’s check would be verified as good and clear in 24 hours. When we questioned that answer they assured us that 24 hours was all that it took for it to be “verified”.

Back then, I assumed that this meant that someone at the bank actually did something to “verify” that the cashier’s check or money order was good. You would think with all of the computer programs out there that they could have a system where you enter the check information and it would tell you if it that check was written on a bad account or if the account had enough funds in it to cover that check . . . and last time I checked, the phone system still worked for the bank to call the issuing bank to “verify” all of this.

So, a week after we deposited the cashier’s check that we were sent, we got a call from our bank telling us that it was counterfeit and that we were liable for the entire amount. I asked them how this could be true since they told us that the check was “good”, “verified” and that the “funds were available”. They informed us that when we signed the check we became liable for the full amount, and that if we wanted to know for sure that it was good we should have called the issuing bank . . . funny . . . that is what I thought THEY were going to do when they said that they were going to “verify” the check!

But it gets better . . . as we were battling the bank and speaking with the Loss Prevention Department my husband asked them “So, how long does it REALLY take for a cashier’s check to clear?” After asking her supervisor, the person we were speaking with told us “24 hours”, to which we responded, “If that were true, we would not be having this conversation with you right now.”

And that is why I agree with the author of this article that the banks are clueless.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of
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Consumer Education

The FTC has a new Consumer Alert, available on its Web site at, titled “Money Transfers Can Be Risky Business.” It includes useful information on how consumers can avoid telemarketing and money transfer fraud, including the following tips. Don’t wire money to:

  • someone you don’t know, in the U.S. or in a foreign country;
  • someone claiming to be a relative in the midst of a crisis and who wants to keep the
    request for money a secret;
  • someone who says a money transfer is the only form of payment that’s acceptable; or
  • someone who asks you to deposit a check and send some of the money back.

Consumers interested in the process of redress administration should call 202-326-3755.

The FTC’s case was investigated with the assistance of the Toronto Strategic Partnership, Project Colt, Project Emptor, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Additional assistance was provided by the Durham Regional Police Service, Ontario, Canada, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre (PhoneBusters).

The Toronto Strategic Partnership includes the FTC, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Competition Bureau Canada, the Toronto Police Service Fraud Squad – Mass Marketing Section, the Ontario Provincial Police Anti-Rackets Section, the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the United Kingdom’s Office of Fair Trading. Project Colt includes the FTC, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Surete du Quebec, City of Montreal Police Service, Canada Border Services Agency, Competition Bureau Canada, U.S. Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Project Emptor includes the FTC, the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Competition Bureau Canada, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The Commission vote approving the complaint and proposed consent order was 3-0, with Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour recused. The complaint and order were filed on October 19, 2009, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. A stipulated court order is for settlement purposes only and does not necessarily constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed by the judge.

Copies of the complaint and stipulated order are available from the FTC’s Web site at and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.



The FTC has charged the operators of an Internet-based check creation and delivery service with violating a 2009 court order. The FTC has asked the court to impose a daily fine or imprisonment to make Neovi, Inc., its principals and affiliates stop their illegal actions, compensate affected customers, and give up their ill-gotten gains. According to the FTC, the defendants allowed people to create and email checks via the Internet without verifying their identities or their authority to withdraw money from the accounts they were using.
Press release:

Vocabulary Lesson – Clear

Quite a while back, I wrote a “vocabulary lesson” about cashier’s checks.

I wanted to continue on this to show why I believe the wording used by the banking industry is so misleading and why it is so easy for so many people to become victims of counterfeit cashier’s check scams.

So let’s say you receive a cashier’s check from someone and you are concerned if it is a valid check or not. You want to receive the payment you are entitled to, and you do not want to end up liable for money from a bad check. This is the case with many people who become victims of counterfeit cashier’s check scams. Many of them do not know how to make sure that a check is legitimate, so they bring it to their bank. They trust that the people who work with forms of currency every day will know how to make sure that this check is legitimate.

If the bank teller tells you that “the check will be clear in 24 hours” what does that really mean, and why is that confusing to the banking customer? Let’s take a look at the definition of the word clear.

free from blemishes; unhampered by restriction or limitation; unencumbered by debts or charges; free from obstruction

“clear.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.
Merriam-Webster Online. 25 October 2009

Banking: collection of funds on which a check is drawn, and payment of those funds to the holder of the check

“clear” Business Dictionaries from 2009.

From reading these definitions one would think that when the bank tells you that an item, such as a cashier’s check, is “clear” that would mean that you are free to use that money with no worry . . . it should be unhampered by restrictions and funds should have been collected from the bank on which the check was drawn according to the definitions I found online from reliable sources. So then why is it that banking employees will tell their customers that the check is “clear” in 24 hours, but then contact them a week later to say that the check was found to be counterfeit? You cannot un-ring a bell. If it is clear one day, it should still be clear a week later.

Maybe the real problem is not the word “clear” but the fact that it takes on average 7 – 10 business days for a check to go through the entire clearing process, but many bank’s train their employees to tell people that cashier’s checks are “clear” in 24 hours. If it is a legitimate cashier’s check, then there would be no problems since it would be drawn against funds of the bank itself, but these checks are counterfeit and they are very good counterfeits, so good that they fool bank employees and bank managers on a daily basis.

So to make the vocabulary fit the situation, wouldn’t it be better for bank employees to inform their customers that “it could take over 10 days for the check to clear”. I know that the bank that we are currently with does this because I asked them before I opened an account with them. Test your bank out. Go in and ask them if you brought in a cashier’s check how long would it take for it to clear. If they tell you 24 hours, you might want to rethink who you are trusting with your money.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of
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