Let’s call it the Case of the Clueless Banks. Money order scams have been around for years, yet banks are not taking any of the responsibility for cashing them, or the right steps to protect their customers. Victims lose millions when banks cash fake money orders; banks go after the victims to cover their loses.
If you ever receive a money order or check from a stranger, it is likely counterfeit, so don’t cash it, warns Margot Mohsberg, American Bankers Association spokesperson. “The customer is responsible for the money if a check or money order is determined to be fraudulent, because the customer is the one who knows where the check came from and therefore is best-equipped to know whether it might be fraudulent or not.”
Fraudulent money orders are an industry-wide problem. Customers are not trained to spot fakes; bank tellers are. It is clear that some tellers are not doing their jobs properly by treating counterfeit money orders as cash. A well-trained teller is crucial, because while half of America knows about money order scams, unfortunately, the other half does not. Bank tellers are the last line of defense.
On Oct. 7, Jane Rogers (name changed to protect her identity), an acquaintance of mine, fell victim to a money order scam when she signed up to be a “mystery shopper.” Her first "assignment" was to monitor Western Union. Her instructions, sent via email, unedited, with typos and all:
This e-mail is to notify you about your first assignment. The company has issued out a payment to you for your first assignment which means half your weekly payment of $200 has been issued to you with some funds which you will use in executing this Assignment.
Read and make sure you understand all that is stated below to avoid any mistakes. You should receive money orders from one of our companies tommorow (sic) which is part of your assignment.
You can track it at www.ups.com/us with tracking number J#########6 and it would be delivered to you by ups. Payment was issued to cover the assignment bills and also your weekly wages and Assignment.
ONCE YOU RECEIVE THE MONEY ORDERS YOU SHOULD TAKE IT TO CASH AT YOUR BANK AT ONCE AND CASH THE PAYMENT TODAY THEN DEDUCT $200 AS HALF OF YOUR WEEKLY WAGE. The remaining balance should be used for the below assignment. Follow these instructions below.
As a secret shopper, you are adviced (sic) to Go to the nearest Western Union outlet in your City with cash and $1,500 to the information below and use the remaining $150 for the transfer charges and make sure its (MONEY IN MINUTES).