Money order fraud is a type of white collar crime involving the issuance of fake or fraudulent money orders.  They may be individualized crimes originating from one person, but more typically involve an entire scheme created by a group of persons.  Money order fraud is nearly identical to some forms of check fraud.

Most money order fraud schemes involve the use of forged money orders that are drawn on overseas bank accounts.  The victim may be presented with a money order that is held out as “good as cash”.  The victim may then deposit the money order into their own personal bank account, and the check may initially clear. 

The fraudster(s) may then require some form of payment or withdrawal from the victim, who later discovers that the money order was forged and thus loses some amount of their own money.  This is because the payment may be required before the bank discovers that the money order was fraudulent. 

What are Some Examples of Money Order Fraud?

There are many other forms of money order fraud besides the use of forged money orders.  Some of these may include:

  • “Work from home” schemes:  The victim may be presented with an opportunity to make “easy cash” by clearing money orders for a certain charity or business.  The victim is usually promised a percentage for every money order that they clear.  They are usually asked to deposit a money order and wire money to the fraudulent company.  However, the money orders are usually dishonored by the banks, and the victim’s own bank may require reimbursement
  • Internet auctions/classified ads:  Here a person or group posing as a “buyer” may respond to an internet auction or classified ad.  They will send the victim a fake money order in exchange for the goods being sold, resulting in loss of profit for the victim
  • Pleas for assistance:  The typical “I need help” scheme involves an e-mail or other correspondence claiming that the person is stuck in a foreign country and needs money right away.  They offer the victim a portion of money in exchange for wiring them funds.  Often times the schemer has hacked into the e-mail account of a friend or family member, making it appear that their friend needs money
  • Collection of debt:  This is similar to the previous type of scheme, except that the fraudster is asking for money to help pay off debt.  Again, they may promise the victim a cut of money, only to send them a fake money order that has no value

There may be several other types of money order fraud schemes in circulation.  Many of them are accomplished through the use of e-mail and internet mechanisms.  Other types of money order fraud may involve the acquisition of a person’s personal information or forgery in order to cash in a valid money order without the victim’s authorization.

What are the Legal Consequences of Money Order Fraud?

Most instances of money order fraud are classified as white collar crime, which is punishable under criminal laws.  The legal consequences can include criminal penalties such as fines and jail sentences.  Also, the fraudster may be subject to civil liability, and may have to reimburse the victim for any losses that they can prove.

Thus, it’s important to protect yourself when presented with any offers for money or if you are being asked to provide financial assistance.  Be sure to verify that the operation or organization is legitimate, and don’t respond to any correspondences that seem suspicious. 

If you’re unsure of the legal status of an offer or transaction, you may wish to consult with an attorney before proceeding to take action.  Lastly, be especially cautious when it comes to dealing with investors or business operations that originate outside of the U.S., as liability laws may be different for overseas entities.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Legal Issues Involving Money Order Fraud?

Money order fraud is quickly becoming a serious problem, and the number of schemes is steadily increasing each year.  If you have any legal issues or disputes involving money order fraud, it’s in your best interest to contact a lawyer immediately.  An experienced criminal attorney can advise you of the different laws in your area, and can represent you court if you have to file a lawsuit.