Money order scams target Mid-Missouri

Return address uses California college to seem legitimate

Money order scam- contact BBB to file a complaint

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Better Business Bureau is warning Mid-Missourian's about a scam that involves U.S. Postal Service money orders sent in the mail.

A Harrisburg woman called into the ABC 17 newsroom about her son receiving two money orders that appeared to be worth more than $900 each. She told ABC 17 the money orders were addressed from Santiago Canyon College.

The college said on Monday this isn't the first call they received. In fact, in the last couple of weeks, it is the second call the school got - both from people in Missouri wondering where the money orders came from.

Mike Harrison with the BBB said scams like this are very common and come in variations with the same end game. They typically involve lottery winnings and the Publishers Clearing House.

Lisa Miller, financial aid senior account clerk at Santiago Canyon College, said con-artists have been using their address on money order scams.

"He said he had received two money orders from Santiago Canyon College and wanted to know what they were for," she said. "We don't issue money orders for anything, but we looked into it for him anyway and couldn't find anyone that would tell us that they had anything to do with it."

Harrison said a letter attached to the money order asks you to cash the money at the bank and send a portion of it back immediately after for various fees.

"But, when that check ultimately ends up bouncing, which it will, the consumer is responsible for that. So, whatever money they withdrew, they have to pay that back to the bank. So, basically they're out of that money," Harrison said.

With better technology, scammers have the ability to make almost identical copies of money orders.

"That's why people fall for it. Even banks, I think, have a hard time if they're legitimate or not," Harrison told ABC 17.

However, a woman at the post office says there are differences. True money orders have a security thread that turns red under a special light, and there's a watermark underneath the serial number.

The Harrisburg woman in this case did not cash the money orders. She told ABC 17 she reached out to the post office and learned they were fraudulent. The Postal Inspection Service asked the woman to hand over the money orders for their investigation.

The BBB told ABC 17 it hasn't seen any other cases with these specific details, but encourage anyone who may have been targeted in this scam to call them or visit them online at

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