There's no such thing as free money, but there are scam artists out there who would like you to think otherwise.
When money orders for hundreds of dollars arrived on their doorstep out of the blue, some unsuspecting victims thought it was their lucky day. That's what the con artists wanted them to think.
"They were receiving large bundles of counterfeit money orders from West Africa and then divvying up the money orders to send across the country to people that had already been contacted via Internet scams or mail order scams," says Thomas Kingery, a U.S. Postal Inspector.
The crooks were counting on recipients to deposit the money orders. When that happened, the scam artists would gain access to the victims' bank account information.
There was another problem with the money orders. They were counterfeit.
"There is a metallic security thread that, in a real money order, is woven into the paper and on the counterfeit, it's just merely printed on the outside," says Kingery.
Also, real money orders have a watermark of Benjamin Franklin on the far left side.
"On the counterfeits, the watermark is actually printed on the outside of the paper," says Kingery. "It's not a true watermark where it is visible when you hold it up to the light."
Kingery says the moral of the story is that there's no such thing as a free lunch.
Postal inspectors say be on the lookout for this scam. If you ever receive a suspect money order in the mail, you can immediately take it to a post office and have a clerk take a look at it. They are trained to identify counterfeits.