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Experience with USPS Money Order

Have any of you had a negative experience with USPS Money Orders? A
friend is selling an upscale Native American Squash for me, and has
had an out of the blue hurry up request for it, in exchange for a
USPS Money Order. I think I am wary of this. I know Western Union has
been suspect, what does anyone know about USPS Money Orders? Can they
be purchased with bad credit cards, and then cause the seller a money
& property loss?

Thanks for any guidance.

A close friend of mine had problems of all kind. If it’s a hurry
order, go through paypal or your bank. And be sure to explain it has
to clear the bank before it ships due to current issues revolving
around money orders of any kind. ANY of these can be forged (very
well!) and most often banks will accept them and don’t know they’re
counterfeit until it clears (or doesn’t) where it’s drawn on.

She’d nearly had charges against her, and most judges see this as a
"you must have known" kind of case. But she worked with the feds. She
was still out $800 dollars, however. They never recovered it or filed

Be wary,


If the money order is from Nigeria, it would make me pretty nervous,
but the first thing I’d do is go to the post office and have them
examine it very carefully – they do have pretty good security
features imbedded.

As for whether a valid money order being purchased fraudulently
would be a problem for the recipient, I’m not sure about that.
Another question for the post office?


All types of payment can be altered by someone skilled in it. It’s
more likely (rather than the purchase with a bad credit card–which
would leave the onus on the USPS to collect by the way, not your
friend) that, if something bad is going on, the money order has been
altered to reflect a different amount than the actual purchase
amount (like a 0 is added after $100).

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

With any type of money order there is a risk of counterfeit or
forgery. I would hold off on delivering or shipping the piece until
your friend is sure that it has cleared the bank. Since it is US
Postal you should be able to verify its validity. I’m suspiscious of
anyone who wants a tradeable commodity like an antique native
American piece in a hurry. Sounds fishy to me.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Colorado Springs, Colorado

I use postal money orders to pay bills quite often. You must pay for
the money order with cash, not check or credit card, and they should
be guaranteed. I have never had a problem using them as the
purchaser; the receiver should not have a problem either. Should be
the same as cash, and lots safer than check or credit card as they
can’t be canceled by the purchaser.

Beth in SC

The ‘out of the blue’ and hurry up are red flags to me.

Given the fact that the USPS has a list of missing money orders
posted that’s quite long, personally, I wouldn’t do it unless I knew
the person well. The link to the list of ‘hot’ money orders is on
the same page as the info below, and there is a number to call if you
have questions about accepting USPS money orders.

Carol J. Bova

Things to check for to ensure a Money Order is authentic. Postal
Money Orders are safe to use because they have many security
features that help distinguish between real and counterfeit
notes. Just like our own U.S. currency, they are specially
designed with different colored inks, watermarks, and security
thread in the paper. 

How to tell if it's official 

Hold the money order up to the light and look for the following
security features: 

Ben Franklin images (watermarks) repeated on the left side (top
to bottom). A dark security thread running (top to bottom) to
the right of the Franklin watermark, with the tiny letters "USPS"
facing backward and forward. 

If either of these security features is not present when the
money order is held up to the light, you are holding a fraudulent
Postal Money Order. 

Also be aware that Denominations are indicated on two locations.
Discoloration of the denomination amounts indicates erasure
(fraudulent). Maximum value for domestic postal money orders is
$1,000. Maximum value for international postal money orders is
$700. (Maximum for Canadian money orders is $1,000) 

Notice 299 take-ones (highlighting money order security features)
are available to order from the Topeka Materials and Distribution
Center (1-800-273-1509). Or, you can download the Notice 299
(pdf) (htm)(May 2005). 

December 2004 USPS News Release warning about the online fraud
scam. (pdf) (htm) If you have questions about accepting Postal
Money Orders, call your nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Service99
Office or Post Office99. Call the fraud hotline at
1-800-372-8347 (Monday-Friday) or visit for additional

From the USPS website

the only ways to purchase a money order are with cash, debit card or
travelers checks.

Money order security features:

In almost twenty years of traditional mail order and now internet
transactions, many with five-figure items, we’ve never had a problem
with USPS money orders. YMMV, of course. I’d simply cash the MO at
the post office and go on my way. (Sometimes you have to make
arrangements with the specific PO to cash a large amount MO,


Terrie, I would never accept a USPS money order from anyone that I
don’t have recourse against, unless I was able to cash it AT THE
POST OFFICE -=BEFORE=- the merchandise changed hands. There are MANY
counterfeit postal money orders out there, and I can guarantee that
this would be one, especially when combined with a 'hurry up’

Lee Cornelius
Vegas Jewelers

Other than loosing USPS MO’s in the mail, they are pretty solid.
Just dont ship anything until the money order clears your bank, there
are some fradulent ones out there. As for paying the Post Office with
a credit card for a money order, its policy NOT to accept credit card
payment for a USPS money order (mom is a postmaster), you can pay
with a debit card tho, using a PIN number.

USPS money order also have security features like water marks and
security threads…


I know Western Union has been suspect, what does anyone know about
USPS Money Orders? 

Probably/hopefully others will post their experiences. In a more
general sense, though, in this day and age of checks, debit cards,
Paypal, wire transfers and bank drafts, I would look askance at any
money order. I know some people use them to pay bills and all sorts
of things because of their life situation, and that’s the good side
of money orders. But to buy jewelry, and with a rush on top of that -
BIG RED FLAG!!! Could be legit, but I’d be certain the money was
secure before delivering anything, whether they like it or not… I’m
sure has all you need to know about that…

Have any of you had a negative experience with USPS Money Orders? 

Yes, all bad things can happen with any money order or cashier’s
check. Try to get payment via a credit card or PayPal and you might
have a bit more protection (or just ask for the cash - they have to
pay cash for the money order anyway).

BBR - Sandi Graves
Stormcloud Trading (Beadstorm)
St Paul, Minnesota

In response to the several folks who were concerned about needing
the item fast, I personally have quite often bought Native American
items needing them fast. My husband collects, and when Christmas or
birthday are coming I start hunting. Sometimes when I finally find
the “right” thing, it is pretty close to the special date and I need
it fast. Doesn’t mean I’m a con artist, just that sometimes it takes
a while to find the right thing, or I start looking too late!

So yes, be careful…but don’t assume that either because someone
uses USPS (which isn’t Nigerian or anything else but US Post Office!)
money orders and needs it fast means they are a con artist.

I would always make sure the money processes before sending an item
out…since you can cash it at the post office that is really not a
big deal.

Beth in SC

I just had my first experience with a USPS money order. I bought
something and the seller INSISTED i.e. REQUIRED a USPS money order.
They wouldn’t t ake a cashier’s check or money order from the bank.
I don’t know why.


I know this has been debated from a rush job, so the rush is
probably nearly over…but consider some of the wise words spoken.

In addition, find out WHY it’s a rush. Other options: have it sent
western union (good as cash on the receiving end) and take money off
the ‘handling’ charge if there is one…or use this fee as the
handling charge.) Have it sent from their bank to yours…we have an
account that is savings account and it just contains whatever we’re
having sent electronically plus the $5 min. the bank has. The money
is moved so they can’t automatically un-do the charge and it’s worked
through the tellers. Use paypal.

Never send ANYTHING until everything is cleared and you have the
money in your hand (or it’s switched to an unreachable account). When
the banks agree its free and clear you are generally safe, unless
it’s ‘lost’ in transit or damaged. (always send in a way that must be
signed for, and insure it, or you’re liable to lose out.) Because if
you do send it off without that money in hand, you could be throwing
out the value of your piece. You never know. And there is no way to
prove that moneyorders are ‘real and valid’ by looking at them. We
have great scanners. With them even my father (computer illiterate)
could copy a bank money order, insert a watermark, etc., and with the
right paper, no one would be the wiser. Not to mention stolen blanks
from post offices, stores, banks, etc. that can also be used.

Just my careful .02 worth. I wish it were paranoia, but these things
happen every day to lots of people…even careful people. If you want
to be certain you receive your money, don’t send until it’s cleared.

I hate saying this, and have occasionally trusted in situations I
ought not to have. Sometimes people have rewarded my faith in human
nature by being honest. Sometimes I’ve reaped penalties, loss, theft,
accusations of theft, loss, and ‘switchery’, and I still want to
believe everyone. I just can’t afford to.


USPS: cash first then send. If its a fraudulent MO there is nothing
lost but your post office time and travel. Postal insurance however
is worthless and you’ll probably never collect on it if you read the
USPS fine print the requirements are outlandish…not to mention the
waiting period and the extreme amount of paperwork involved. Fed Ex
for MJSA members, or fed ex in general is the best way to go…COD is
also a good thng for sellers…On the other hand a Rush job out of
the blue should suggest that there may be more to the order than
meets the eye- err in the side of caution if you invested your time
and materials and force the person to comply with your terms of sale
Its as simple as- you hold the goods they seek and your terms trump
their requirements if they are truly interested buyers.


Hello All,

It was me, who first broached this issue, so let me bring you all up
to date.

First, excuse my delay, I had eye surgery last Friday, and still
have great difficulty in focusing, and time on the computer was not

The sale of my Indian Squash, was via a good friend of mine, on her
Ruby Lane site. The buyer was in a great rush, and wanted to make
certain someone would be there to receive a FedEx with the USPS
Money Order. It was suggester they use Priority Mail instead.

The Money Order never was received, and a request was made through
Ruby Lane, for action, or return to inventory. That is where it
stands as of yesterday.

I did not feel comfortable with the way it was presented, and it was
probably not real. So I more than appreciate all the feedback that
came my way.

Basically, USPS Money Orders are probably safest, but some have been
stolen, and are on a list on USPS Web Site. They are specifically
designed to be less easy to be fraudulently duplicated.

Again, I thank all for their offerings.

Lately I’ve been accepting Bank Wire Transfers, from a client I know
and trust well, overseas. There must be thousands of jewelers between
Tokyo and New York area, so I’m honored he chooses to still do
business with me.

But in reviewing this thread I’m wondering if I should confine
transfers to well known clients. After all you have to give them your
routing and account numbers. Does anyone here have specific knowledge
of the safety of this practice? Should I set up another ‘holding
account’ dedicated to receiving wire transfers?


Listen to your instinct, a little caution, and a dedicated account
can protect you well beyond the set up. Perhaps, because of the
already known routing, etc. numbers, Separate your personal account


After all you have to give them your routing and account numbers. 

You give out your routing/account numbers every time you write a
check. As in all things, do your research on those prospective
customers to whom you extend wire transfers and every thing should
be fine.

And an aside to the original poster who asked about the safety of
USPS money orders: if you had said the order came through a Ruby Lane
shop, my answer to you, rather than assuring you of the safety of
USPS money orders, would have been that the order had a high
probability of being bogus. And, yes, I know many RL merchants and
have been one in the past myself so my answer is based on personal