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Rip-Off Alert | Scammers strike victims with counterfeit money orders

Scammers are striking victims with counterfeit money orders. (KSNV file)

An extra set of eyes could help you avoid a scam.

That's what happened to one family who thought a deal was done, but a second glance showed they were dealing with a rip-off.

Postal inspectors say there's a troubling trend -- counterfeit money orders that look like the real deal.

Some victims have been easily fooled, but not this family. What they found could save you from a scam.

$150 for a large sectional sofa -- most consumers use online sales sites to sell used or unwanted items.

Tawnie Allen posted the sofa listing for her mom and dad in Portland, Maine, so she was thrilled to get a buyer.

"He asked if it was ok to send a money order. We went ahead and said that was alright and he said it would be on its way," said Allen.

When they received the payment, the money order inside was for more than $900 -- way more than expected.

"That sent a lot of red flags and I told my mom not to cash it … and she knew it didn't sound right to her either," said Allen.

There were other questions, including the payment's postmark.

"On the envelope, we saw that it was from Kenya, which sent huge red flags because he originally said he was from California, so we knew something fishy was going on there," said Allen.

The family took the money order to the post office and confirmed their suspicions.

"The postal employees there were able to tell them the money order was, in fact, a fraudulent," said U.S. Postal Inspector Emily Spera.

Postal inspectors say con men send checks or money orders for more than expected and ask the seller to return the difference.

By the time banks realize the check or money order is a fake, it's too late and the victim is out the money.

"Know who you are buying from … that's the key. Make sure that you trust who you are giving money to or who you are taking money from on both ends," said Spera.

"Be aware. Be careful how you list it, be careful of your personal information, if something doesn't sound right it probably isn't," said Allen.

Another thing -- don't rush. A false sense of urgency is a way scammers try to force you to act quickly.

If you suspect something is up, take that check to a bank or, like in this case, the post office. It could help you avoid a rip-off.

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