750 victimized in scam involving counterfeit money orders

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Who doesn't want to make a little extra money on the side? You've seen the ads for those work-from-home jobs -- but Contact 6 says it's not worth your time.

Counterfeit money orders are at the heart of a scam that starts with victims responding to a job ad that says: "Receive money orders like these in the mail -- then go shopping."

"They would go to Walmart, make purchases, rate their service they received at Walmart, then they would go back to Western Union and mail back the remaining money," U.S. Postal Inspector David Nitz said.

After following those instructions, the victims would get a surprise. The money orders they deposited into their bank accounts were counterfeit -- and they would be in a situation where they had to repay the bank.

Postal inspectors were tipped off to one recent case after customs intercepted a package containing $400,000 worth of counterfeit money orders.

In this specific scheme, there were 750 victims and more than $300,000 in losses.

Inspectors say the scam is on the rise, and targeting vulnerable victims.

"A lot of victims are already in financial distress. To get involved in something like this just compounds the problem," Nitz said.

Nitz offers some simple advice.

"Don`t get involved in something that was unsolicited. Somebody sends you money orders or checks and you don`t personally know them or haven`t been personally doing business with them -- you shouldn`t be cashing those checks," Nitz said.

Postal inspectors say if you ever want to verify a money order is real -- you can take it to a post office, as employees have been trained to detect counterfeits.

Also -- call the Better Business Bureau to check out any business that tries to solicit you -- and never send money back to anyone who sends you a check or money order unless you know exactly who they are, and you're certain they are legitimate.