A flurry of suspicious money order transactions over several days last month in Bethlehem, PA, left Postmaster Daniel Mazzeo more attuned to fraud prevention — and impressed with the diligence of retail associates on his team.
Awilda Nunez was on duty at the Southside Branch when several individuals purchased multiple $1 money orders, claiming they were for a child’s birthday party. Wary of money order alteration, Nunez alerted Mazzeo, who contacted the Postal Inspection Service and was advised to call police should the individuals return.
When one of the suspects came back the following day for more $1 money orders, Nunez safely engaged him until police arrived.
Although no arrests were made, Mazzeo had already advised other offices to watch out for unusual activity, which was detected the next day at the Lehigh Valley Processing and Distribution Center.
At that location, Retail Associate Ronald Getz was concerned that individuals in vehicles with out-of-state license plates had arrived to purchase multiple $995 money orders with possibly counterfeit debit cards.
Getz and colleague Sharon Wagner directed the individuals to the Main Post Office and contacted that location, where Tracey Wigg and Susan Cope soon assisted the suspects and safely engaged them while Mazzeo alerted the Inspection Service and local police.
Officers again made no arrests, but Mazzeo and his team filed suspicious transaction reports, and he is hopeful that the law enforcement response will serve as a fraud deterrent.
At the suggestion of the Inspection Service, Mazzeo also ordered multiple rubber stamps with the impression “NOT GOOD FOR OVER $___,” for use on any future $1 money orders. (The stamps are available in the eBuy2 system using number N1001971.)
However, Mazzeo knows one of the best safeguards against fraud will always be mindful employees taking action when something isn’t right.
“I saw a side of my team members I had not seen before,” he said. “They all worked very well together — sending text messages and making phone calls that gave us time to react. They were very brave.”
The incidents remain under Inspection Service investigation.