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Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Counterfeit Money Orders

CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- Consumers and businesses are losing millions of dollars because of an increasing number of counterfeit money orders.
One New Jersey car dealer wishes he had known how to spot a fake before he accepted one.

Ej Ahmad, a fraud victim, said, "I got a call from both banks, '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.'"
This used car dealership owner is understandably angry.  Two customers used counterfeit money orders to pay for a couple of cars.
Ahmad continued, "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 says the suspects shopped his car lot and found an Acura and Jeep Cherokee they liked.  They put down a deposit of 9,000 dollars in money orders for both cars.  Total sale price: $12,000.
Ahmad said, "So far, we never had any problems with the postal money orders so postal money order was considered like cash."
Mark Viggiano, a US Postal Inspector, told us, "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."
The suspects never returned and Ahmad was on the hook for the full $12 thousand dollars lost.  Postal Inspectors say counterfeit money orders are a growing problem and somewhat easy to distinguish from the real thing.  For instance, there is a metallic security thread woven into real money orders.  On a fake it's printed on the outside.
Also, real money orders have a watermark of Benjamin Franklin on the far left side.  On a counterfeit the water mark is printed on the paper.
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."
Both of the cars stolen in this case were recovered and returned but the suspects remain on the run.  Creating a fake money order is a federal offense punishable by up to  5 years in prison.

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