Counterfeit money orders are showing up in the Midwest, according to the Johnson County, Kansas, district attorney's office.

Several schemes using fake MoneyGram money orders have surfaced in the area, including one that involves items sold on eBay.

In that scheme, a buyer sends a counterfeit money order to the seller often for an amount greater than the sales price. The buyer then asks the seller to cash the money order and return the extra to him. The buyer, however, offers to let the seller $50 or more.

In the end, the seller loses the cost of the item sold on Ebay and any extra cash sent back.

This type of scheme is common among swindlers using counterfeit money orders. Authorities say online con artists have used counterfeit money orders for years especially United States postal money orders.

Scams involving these phony postal orders are common on online auction sites like Ebay and Cragislist. They also surface through e-mail solicitations.

Postal Inspectors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warn that international forgers -- mostly in Nigeria, but also in Ghana and Eastern Europe -- are now using counterfeit postal money order in their schemes.

Postal authorities say the loss from these phony money orders is in the millions of dollars.

Authorities are worried about this trend because U.S. postal money orders are considered one of the most difficult financial documents to counterfeit. That's because they have watermarks, security threads, and a rainbow of inked patterns and tones.

How can consumers tell if a money order is real or counterfeit?

Authorities say U.S. postal money orders have special security features, which can be seen by holding them in front of a light.

Consumers should look for the following:

• A watermark of Benjamin Franklin, one of the most famous signers of the Declaration of Independence. He is visible on both the front and reverse side of the money order when held to the light;

• A dark security thread running (top to bottom) to the right of the Franklin watermark, with the tiny letters "USPS" facing backward and forward.

Authorities say domestic postal money orders never have a value of more than $1,000. They are distinguished by their green, yellow, and blue colors. Many counterfeit postal money orders have a face value of $750 to $950.

International postal money orders, authorities say, are printed in pink, yellow, and gold and cannot exceed $700. Postal inspectors say these counterfeit money orders usually have a face value of $500 to $700.

Back in the U.S., consumers can spot an authentic MoneyGram money orders by the circle on the front that turns color when touched.

Consumers with questions about these money orders can contact MoneyGram at 800-542-3590.

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