How to Spot Fake Money Order Scams on Craigslist

By Techwalla Internet Editor

Anyone can use a fake money order to swindle a seller out of goods and money, but scammers from Nigeria, Ghana and Eastern Europe prefer to use this scam on unsuspecting American sellers on Craigslist. Though legitimate money orders have watermarks and special threads and patterns to distinguish them, many people cannot tell the difference.

Step 1

Post the description of your item for sale on Craigslist. Get responses from interested parties. Note an eager buyer who is willing to pay more than your asking price.

Step 2

Start corresponding with the scammer. Note oddities in the correspondence such as broken English, an insistence on buying the item or prodding for your personal information. Scammers will try to push you into selling the item to them by including a fake personal story or by claiming to be in a rush. At the end of each piece of correspondence, the scammer will demand your mailing address, phone number and other personal information so that he can send the fake money order.

Step 3

Refuse to give the scammer your personal details. If you fall for the scam, you'll receive the money order in a regular envelope. Note the postage. Scammers often claim that they are from a particular region but the postage will be from another region. In some cases, scammers may request that you send the item to a different place than where they are supposedly located.

Step 4

Inspect the money order. Find that it looks legitimate. Note that the money order seems to be from a big, trustworthy money order service such as the United States Post Office or Western Union. Other money orders may seem to have been issued by private companies that you weren't aware printed them.

Step 5

Take the money order to your local bank and ask them to verify its authenticity. Don't send the item to the scammer until the funds have cleared your account.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the money order is fraudulent, you'll get a call or letter a few days later from your bank. A bank representative will tell you that the money order was fraudulent and that you will be held accountable for it.
  • A variation of this scam has the seller cashing a money order for over the asking price and wiring the difference back to the buyer.