There are several ways to tell if a money order is fake or not.
Where to look
To physically tell if a money order is fake, there are a few key places to check. First, when you hold up the money order to the light, Ben Franklin should be visible. This is because that section of the money order is watermarked. Fake money orders won’t allow you to visibly see Ben Franklin on the other side.
Another physical sign on the money order that tells you whether it is real or not is the silver lining. Check the silver lines by holding them up to the light. They are sewn into the money order and should look like one whole line when held to the light.
Money order check numbers
In addition to spotting physical red flags on the money order, also be aware of scams — for example, when a scammer sends two or more money orders for no apparent reason. Check the numbers on the top left side of the money order. Both money orders should have numbers that are similar. Think of when you write two checks in a row — if one check is 1150, the next would be 1151.
In other words, if you received a money order with 599 as the last three digits, and the next one ended with 385, clearly, the numbers are not consecutive. That means that the person more than likely generated the money orders artificially.
Be weary of the scam mentioned earlier for cashier’s checks.
A different version of this scam is when someone claiming to be your relative sends you an email. The person will tell you a mutual family member has passed away. The person will follow up stating that the deceased relative has left a large sum of money to you from their will.
The person claiming to be your relative will mail you a money order and ask that you to deposit the money. They will also ask that you give them a portion of the money. Just like with the other scam involving Joe Money, you will wind up losing money and by the time the bank figures out the money order is fake, you will have most likely sent off the funds to the thief.
Measures to take
Always remain cautious when accepting money orders (and cashier’s checks) from people online. Check with your bank directly. Ask your bank teller to call the official routing number from the bank where the money order originates.
Never trust any numbers on a money order you suspect is fake. A scam artist will set up a fake phone line specifically designed to mimic a real bank. You can easily be fooled into thinking funds are available when they are not. It is safer to look up an official number online or through your bank to call and verify the funds on a money order.