Before saying something outrageous Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, would ask, “Would you believe…?” Yet when many people are offered something that seems too good to be true - like free money for doing something seemingly insignificant, they fall for it without question.
Why do they do that? Sometimes it’s just plain greed, but often it’s because they have a desire to help someone and getting a little something for their trouble seems like a good idea.
That’s what the latest hustle is counting on.
Like most scams, the latest one is just a variation of an old gimmick. The overpayment scam has a fraudster purchasing something with a check that is larger than it should be and asking you to refund the difference.
You do so only to find that the check you were given is bogus. That check bounces and you have lost the amount you refunded to the scammer. While the latest scam is not so new, it is improved and has been kicked up a notch. The key is making it appear credible.
The familiar theme is one of a student, tourist, or member of the armed forces seeking help in cashing a money order. But it’s not just any money order – it’s from the United States Post Office.
This is a monetary instrument almost everyone is familiar with and that creates a level of trust. The scammer will ask someone to cash the money order while keeping a portion of it for their trouble.
It isn’t until after the exchange that the person doing the good deed finds out they’ve been had. The money order is bogus and the bank returns it. If you believe you are somehow protected – think again.
You are responsible for the deposits you make. This means that the money will be deducted from your account and you will be hit with fees for returned checks.
If you do not have enough money on deposit you will be required to make up the difference. Remember, it’s not the bank’s fault the money order was no good.
To make matters worse, you could technically be deemed to have committed an illegal act for helping someone deposit a bogus monetary instrument; though it is extremely unlikely any law enforcement agency would actually press charges.
A real money order from the US Postal Service has built-in security features. There is a watermark and dark security thread running from top to bottom near the watermark.
There is also a maximum dollar denomination of $1,000 for domestic and $700 for international money orders. The next time you handle a money order take a good look at it. If you do you should easily be able to tell that it’s legit.
For more information on this and other similar scams go to www.lookstogoodtobetrue.com which is funded by the US Postal Service or FakeChecks.org, which is a website of the National Consumer League. These organizations are there to help protect the consumer so take advantage of them.
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