Saturday, April 25, 2009

Scammers Exploiting MoneyGram Money Order Verification System

If you were scammed recently with a money order, the counterfeit might have been an instrument spoofing the MoneyGram brand. These money orders have been known to appear in all the too good to be true/don’t exactly make sense come-ons being passed by spam e-mails or via a direct solicitation in a chat room.

In case you are not familiar with all the variations of these come-ons, they include , but aren't limited to (new lures surface frequently), the secret shopper, romance, lottery, work-at-home and auction scams.

The common denominator in most of the scams is there will be a request to send the money you receive via wire transfer (if you don’t get caught), to the fraudster sending you this garbage for a small cut of the total amount. That is unless they are buying goods from you. In this case, the item you are selling is what they want.

In the past, a simple call to MoneyGram’s verification line (1-800-542-3490) normally was all that was needed to reveal the fact that the item was fraudulent. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. The criminals producing these instruments are now taking advantage of a flaw in the automated verification system, which is tricking people into believing that the money orders are good.

When a MoneyGram money order is called in for verification, the system prompts the user to enter all the particulars of the instrument, including the serial number and dollar amount. If the system doesn’t spot a discrepancy, it gives out a standard disclaimer stating there are no stops or holds on the item. If the system catches a discrepancy, it directs the caller to a live operator during their business hours.

In recent weeks, I’ve received reports of this being exploited in two ways. In the first instance – a legitimate money order is purchased for a small amount (normally $1.00) –then is chemically washed and altered to reflect a large dollar amount. It is then passed before it registers in the verification system – and since the system doesn’t recognize the dollar amount – it gives out the standard disclaimer that tells the caller there are no stops or holds on the item. According to the people, I’ve asked, money orders do not register in the system for anywhere between 24 and 96 hours after being issued by a MoneyGram agent.

In these instances, since the item was printed on actual paper, it contains all the known security features. These include a heat sensitive circle, which changes color when rubbed.

A second variation of this scam has also been seen. In this variation, the instrument is a copy of a money order purchased for a small dollar amount. These will pass muster in the system as described above, but the security features will not be present. In this second version of the scam, the dates were printed to make it appear as if the item had been purchased several weeks before the legitimate item actually was. I suspect this was to trick people, who had already discovered the "washed instrument" mutation of this scam.

When I first started getting reports on these variations of the scam, I thought it might be only targeting a limited geographical area. Normally when washing items occurs, this is the case. Since then, I've discovered this is happening throughout North America and the items are being shipped using overnight services, such as Federal Express and UPS.

I have also had reports that these are being passed not only via online come-ons, but also by professional groups who specialize in passing counterfeit instruments.

I went to the MoneyGram site to see if there were any warnings about this specific scam and found none. They do have a consumer protection area on their site, which refers to all the come-ons to trick people to cash these items. They also have information on how to verify their product in the FAQ area for customers on their site.

The sad fact is that money order companies do not take a loss on these instruments. When the items is discovered to be a fraud – they return it to the institution who cashed it and the institution goes after (if they can find them) – the person who cashed them. With any money order, it is nearly impossible to be made whole by the issuing company, itself. In fact, many experts will tell you that accepting a money order is more risky than accepting a personal check. If you listen to the disclaimer on the verification line it tells you exactly that.

So far as getting these instruments in too good to be true online scams – with the sour economy – I am seeing more and more people who really want to believe they have come into a financial windfall. When they fall for these scams – one thing is for certain – which are they are going to be held liable for cashing the items when the scam is discovered. This will certainly include being held financially liable, but can also mean facing criminal charges.

So far as counterfeit MoneyGram instruments – although a lot of them seem to be out there – they are not the only items being counterfeited. U.S. Postal Money Orders have been seen frequently in the past, too. Recently, the U.S. Postal Service redesigned their product and has a new page on their site to help consumers verify their product. Counterfeit cashier's checks, money orders, gift and travelers cheques are also known to be frequently counterfeited and used in these types of scams.

If you want to learn more about these scams, I recommend going to fakechecks.org, where you can see some highly visual demonstrations of these schemes. Another good resource on this subject – particularly if you are a victim – is FraudAid. The folks at FraudAid actually provide resources and advocate for people falling for these scams.

14 comments:

Lisa Ann said...

I think someone sent these money orders for me.

What MoneyGram told me was to call back in 5 days to verify the amount and that they were issued. These things look real all the way down to the the perf line. Kinda freaky. I won't be cashing these until I know if they are alright. Thank you for the warning!

Site Manager said...

My wife almost became a victim of this type of fraud. I called Money Gram and verified the checks she was sent. They were forgeries alright. Each one was forged at $500.00 each and were previously cashed checks for under $100.00 each.

Her instructions were to cash them, keep $100.00 and spend $30.00 to $50.00 at Wal Mart. Send the rest to X via Western Union minus Western Union fees.

I read the instructions and saw poor grammar, inconsistent instructions and two email addresses under GMail and Yahoo mail. Not a company email address.

This ws the Secret Shopper Scam. So it is going around and the checks are incredibly good.

Anonymous said...

I received two checks today via UPS today as well. However, these are the signs that I picked up; one check number is 22001482 and the next one is 22001524. the second check should be 22001483 not ending in 1524. Secondly, At the bottom left should be the bank routing number instead the same check numbers are at the left instead of the bottom right. The money gram personal money order is named Country Bank "Agent for Money gram". Both fake checks are made out for $970.00. So please, pass this information on and beware.

Anonymous said...

I just recieved three $500 money gram money orders with the CVS Pharmacy logo on it, i called money gram and thank God they verified that these could be fradulent. I also have the email addresses and letter to where to send this money to. So if someone wants to contact me about this maybe lift fingerprints off them I don't know you can contact me at debsmagic@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

i just got scamed by a women named amy gates she uses a relay services and she send me 2 money grams for 975.00 each and i was supose go to my bank and cashed them and send some of the money to a shipper which she came me his address in an email she send me and he was going to come to my home and get a puppy once he got the money and i found this site and called and they said that the moneygrams was faked so beware of this if your sellin anything on craigslist so if someone canhelp me with this please contact me at dollcountryangel@yahoo.com i still have all of the emails and the ups envelope that the moneygrams came in thank you so much

Anonymous said...

I just got scammed by 2 men saying they were with Customer Perspectives Shopping program. They emailed me from personal yahoo email accounts but I still fell for it. I should have dug deeper but didn't until after i did the first mystery shop. I had a gut feeling when I received instructions to cash M.O. and keep money, then send rest by Western Union to someone else in another state with a whole different name than the 2 who contacted me. The money was a CVS Money Gram Money order. On getting my "second assignment" I told them i wasn't interested anymore because I felt it was legitimate. They replied saying they didn't understand because they were legitimate and they would call me. I have not heard back from them. I contacted Customer Perspectives website and told them about these 2 men and they told me to call a 1-800 number and talk to them. I did call them and spoke to their director of operations and they verified what I knew deep down had happened. I got scammed for $600. Customer Perspectives is a real company but these guys are using it as a front. So don't get caught up in this quick money scam.

Anonymous said...

Beware of Cheryl Hamm .. And mystery shopper.. I believe this is a scan. I'm trying to call and verfify but I too received 2 money gram money orders for 990.00 and I did not cash them because I had a bad feeling and I'm pretty sure my feeling is correct. These people doing this need to get in trouble! If u have any questions about this or something like this has happened to u recently with this cheryl Hamm of sona marketing for secret shopper please e mail me .. Danye11e82@aol. Com

Anonymous said...

Cheryl Hamm is a scan! Beware! If anyone else received 2 money grams for 990.00, I am 99 percent sure it's a scam! Waiting on verification! Email me if u u experienced this Cheryl Hamm secret shopper thing. Thank goodness I did not cash them!

Anonymous said...

I just received 2 money grams today in the amount of $955.00 each. I have not cashed them as I have been scammed for a large sum prior. These money orders are from J.L, Box 6530, Houston, TX 77036 (on money order) Mailed from Davis H Von Wittenberg, Baltimore Maryland 21221. Click n Ship US Mail. I too am to deposit in my bank take $200 salary and spend $50 at Wal-Mart, and send the rest Western Union To England. Mystery Shopper

Anonymous said...

I just received the same thing but mine is $900 and it said to keep $200 for myself. I knew something was fishy. Anyway I hope everyone reads this.

Anonymous said...

I got 2 money orders in FedEx from cvs pharmacy. They were 950 dollars each one. I was going to do a cleaning Job for a lady who called herself "Laura Josh". She said that I keep 400 and send the rest of the money via western union to her movers. First the destination was Ohio then it was NY. She then started texting me on a yahoo messenger number. These checks were fake and after. I sent the money to this person my account got debited for 1900. Words can't express how I'm feeling and I knew I shouldn't have gone through with this, but I did nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

I too recieved a $950 money gram from Ace cash express to cash at my bank and keep $260 for my "job" as a secret shopper for fees, wages and to buy $30 of stuff then Western Union the remainder minus fees to a person in GA for their mystery shop job........however the heat area only worked the one time...it then stayed faded yet all other security features were present and accounted for. My bank said they were a little concerned about it so i didn't cash it and instead took it to an Ace here and they called to verify the order adn came back that it couldn't be verified.

These people are very good at creating fake checks! BEWARE!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I received a money order in the mail from a james giles. The instructions were to go to my bank and cash it, spend $100 @ wal mart on anything o wanted, keep $100 as commission, and send the rest to a lady in Texas via western union. The guy even called my cell phone. When i asked him questions about it, he had an attitude. I told him that i didn't have a bank account. He wanted me to go open one up and deposit the money. I told him no. ?So he wanted me to send it back to him. I didn't have an address. I told him to give it to me and that i would write it down. He suggesgted sending it to me via email. I asked him how he gotit in the first place including my number. Then he hung the phone up in my ear. Don't be a victim of this scam. I'm glad i did some research and came across this website. These people need to be stopped.

pacnam said...

Hi

I need an advise,
someone send me an email and said to me

i can send you Money and you have only to pick up the Money , then you have to send mi back 60% from the Money..i live in the Dominican Republic. i go in different acounts from People.

He wanted to send the money in Money gram.

is this for real? or some sort of scam activity?

send me an email,
apariciofrancis44@gmail.com
http://www.cisonlinebusiness.com/