How do I Recognize a Fake Money Order?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Dvortygirl, Pavel Losevsky
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2019
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With money order fraud at an all-time high, the need to distinguish between a fake money order and a real one has never been greater. Failure to do so can mean losing a great deal of money, with very little possibility of ever recovering even a small portion of that loss. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the chances of accepting a fake money order and being the victim of a money order scam.

One of the first signs that you have a forged or fake money order is discoloration around the dollar amounts listed on the instrument. If the background between and numbers appears different from the rest of the face of the order, chances are that the amount has been altered. This is really one of the more ingenious approaches to money order fraud, since the document itself is legitimate, but the face value has been altered.

Another potential way to recognize a fake money order involves inspecting the instrument for the presence of a watermark. Most of the major money order providers have some sort of watermark that is visible when the document is held to the light or is subjected to ultraviolet light. A money order with no watermark is most likely a fake.


Some money order companies use what is known as a security thread on the face of the document. This is usually a simply recurring sequence of letters or numbers that run from the top to the bottom of the front side of the money order. For example, a postal money order issued by the United States Postal Service will have a security thread composed of the letters “USPS” that will run from the top to the bottom. If that thread is missing, there is a good chance you have a fake money order on your hands.

Keep in mind that most postal services have document experts that are capable of recognizing a fake money order. Banks also often have experts in residence that can determine if a given money order is legitimate or a clever forgery. Generally, financial institutions are more than happy to evaluate the document in advance and let you know if there are any apparent signs that the money order is fake. Even then, banks tend to place a hold on the funds associated with the order until the purported issuer honors it. If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a given order, do not hesitate to seek the assistance of experts. Doing so will help you avoid cashing a fake money order, or depositing a money order in your bank account, only to find later it is worthless.


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