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Special Alerts

March 9, 2005

TO: CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER (also of interest to Security Officer)
SUBJECT: Counterfeit U.S. Postal Money Orders
Summary: Counterfeit postal money orders are reportedly in circulation.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has learned that counterfeit U.S. Postal Money Orders have been presented for payment at financial institutions.

Authentic U.S. Postal Money Orders have a number of distinguishing features, including:

  • A watermark of Benjamin Franklin, which is visible when held to the light. The image repeats down the left side of the money order.
  • A "USPS" security thread embedded in the paper with the letters facing backward and forward.
  • Warning instructions listed on the back side of the money order.
  • Serial numbers printed in red ink that bleeds through to the back side of the paper.
  • Denominations listed in two locations that, if erased, discolor around the denomination amounts.

In addition, authentic U.S. Postal Money Orders are printed on crisp textured paper stock and are in denominations no larger than $1,000. The maximum amount of an international postal money order is $700.

A copy of an authentic money order with the features noted can be downloaded from the Web at http://www.usps.com/missingmoneyorders/security.htm. Click on the 299 PDF link on the Web page.

If your bank is presented with a counterfeit money order in an amount of less than $5,000 that you believe is not part of a larger fraud, you should contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) office that serves your area. If you believe that the money order is part of a large fraud or is in an amount greater than or equal to $5,000, you should file a Suspicious Activity Report and contact the USPIS for your area. Information on the USPIS can be found at http://www.usps.com/ncsc/locators/find-is.html.

Information about these instruments may also be forwarded to the FDIC's Special Activities Section, 550 17th Street, N.W., Room F-4040, Washington, D.C. 20429, or transmitted electronically to alert@fdic.gov. Information related to federal deposit insurance or consumer issues should be submitted to the FDIC using an online form that can be accessed at http://www2.fdic.gov/starsmail/index.asp.

For your reference, FDIC Special Alerts may be accessed from the FDIC's Web site at www.fdic.gov/news/news/SpecialAlert/2005/index.html. To learn how to automatically receive FDIC Special Alerts through e-mail, please visit www.fdic.gov/about/subscriptions/index.html.

Michael J. Zamorski
Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection

Distribution: FDIC-Supervised Banks (Commercial and Savings)

NOTE: Paper copies of FDIC Special Alerts may be obtained through the FDIC's Public Information Center, 801 17th Street, NW, Room 100, Washington, DC 20434 (1-877-275-3342 or (703) 562-2200).

Last Updated 03/09/2005 communications@fdic.gov