Consumer Alert: Businesses losing out on fake money orders

Fake vs. real money order. (Photo: Postal Inspectors)

TRENTON, N.J. (WJLA) -- Consumers and businesses are losing millions of dollars because of the increasing number of counterfeit money orders. One New Jersey car dealer wishes he had known how to distinguish a real one from a fake.

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"I got a call from both banks," says victim E.J. Ahmad. "Hey what are you doing? Are you doing a fraud? Excuse me. What's going on? They said, well, the money orders you have deposited are fake."

The used car dealership owner is understandably angry. Two customers used counterfeit money orders to pay for a couple of cars.

"We just took that as a payment. They bought two cars from us and we were very happy and confident and we didn't think of any problem," Ahmad.

Ahmad says the suspects shopped his car lot and found an Acura and Jeep Cherokee they liked. They put down a deposit of $9,000 in money orders for both cars. The total price was $12,000.

"So far, we never had any problems with the postal money orders so postal money order was considered like cash," says Ahmad.

"He agreed they could take the cars home that night because they lived locally and they would be back the next morning to complete the transaction," says U.S. Postal Inspector Mark Viggiano.

The suspects never returned and Ahmad was on the hook for the full $12,000.

Postal inspectors say counterfeit money orders are a growing problem and somewhat easy to distinguish from the real thing. For instance, there's a metallic security threat woven into real money orders. On a fake, it's printed on the outside.

Ahmad says from now on, he won't treat money orders like cash.

"We should have done probably little more research into and know exactly what they were doing," Ahmad says.

Both of those cars stolen in this case were recovered and returned to Ahmad. Both suspects remain on the run. Creating a fake money order is a federal offense, punishable by up to five years in prison.

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