Top tips to spotting fake US Postal Money Orders

NEW YORK (WABC) -- It's a scam that uses a tried and true method of payment, good old fashioned U.S. Postal Money Orders. But there's a new deception that could steal hundreds, even thousands from you, unless you know what to look for.

"We've been on West 72nd Street since 1936," said Terri Long, a business owner.

Long says her family's been in the mattress business for four generations. The store was founded by her great grandfather. But Terri says her family's never seen a scam like this.

"This is the first time we've had an altered money order," Long said. They've had four of them to be exact. All four U.S. Postal Money Orders were presented by a shopper she says casually browsed for beds last week and then returned to the store.

"He was smart. He shopped around. He didn't pick the most expensive. He didn't pick the cheapest. He went right in the middle," Long said.

He selected a king size mattress and box spring for $2,700. The customer gave the salesman the four postal money orders, made out for $700 each, and asked for $100 in change.

But the merchant made a smart move. Instead of cashing the money orders, he called the USPS.

"While this is an authentic money order, it's been altered," said Donna Harris, a USPS spokesperson.

The USPS said the $700 money orders were really worth either $5.11 or $7.11.

The USPS's expert showed 7 On Your Side that this scammer erased the original amount.

"(You) can you see the paper is lighter behind the dollar amount," Harris said.

$700 was subbed in.

Another tip-off, Harris said, is the ink used in the money orders is also a different color: black versus purple. Another giveaway, is how the paper feels. Harris says there's no indentation where the amount is supposed to be.

After 7 On Your Side alerted the USPS, an inspector opened an investigation.

"We're looking into this. We're hoping we can apprehend this individual and we will take it from there," Harris said.

The big takeaway is if you get a money order, don't cash it before calling the post office to verify the amount printed on the front is genuine. That saved this merchant from a costly money order mess.
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