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I've had some trouble with merchants sending wrong parts or even ignoring orders in the past. Obviously banks won't fight them tooth and nail for a refund.

But if I pay a little more for a money order, maybe the Post Office will take it more seriously.

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    Can you clarify your question, please. Are you asking about statutory refund options, or to be taken seriously? Note that the latter is off-topic as seeking opinions, not facts and citations.
    – user35069
    Jan 3, 2023 at 21:03
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    @Rick I think what I'm asking is, would they be more willing to prosecute for fraud? Jan 3, 2023 at 22:49
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    Why would the Post Office pay you money? You gave them money, you told them to send the money to X, they sent it to X. They have done what you paid them for. What makes you think you could get fraud insurance for 99p?
    – gnasher729
    Jan 6, 2023 at 16:34
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    If you do enough volume then you could consider setting up a line of credit with the merchant and a Net90 payment schedule. If the merchant wants their money then they'll be more inclined to make you happy. If you're an average nobody like the rest of us then use a proper credit card and issue a chargeback if the merchant is not being amicable. Merchants like to avoid chargebacks at all costs because it can really screw up their cash flow if a credit card vendor suspends their ability to make transactions.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jan 6, 2023 at 17:47

6 Answers 6

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No, the only purpose of a money order is that it's effectively a form of guaranteed cash that only one person can access. There are no additional protections offered by it.

However, given that you are amenable to paying a little extra to facilitate your payments, you may want to consider using a credit card in the future. Provided it's not an all the time thing, credit cards will withhold payments on your behalf if a vendor fails to fulfill their obligations. This means that you're not liable for the cost of the merchant sending you the wrong thing or ignoring your order requests.

I've personally done this for several things:

  • Hotel reservation that was borderline unsuitable for human habitation.
  • When a vendor failed to send something I'd purchased.

When proceeding with this, bear in mind that the credit card company will want you to make such a claim as soon as possible and to provide as much information as possible to support your claim. If you've e-mail chains, save them. If you've been communicating by phone, write down and provide a summary of your communications. If you have an issue, don't wait a month to raise the concern, do it within a week.

Probably about once a year I need to do something like this. Generally what this does is it starts a dispute process whereby the credit company will contact the vendor to get their side of the story (usually they don't respond to them either). After 60 days, the charge is dropped from your bill and presumably the credit card company refuses to pay for the disputed item.

Ultimately, this gets you the best possible result. You get your money back and you didn't have to go to court to do it.

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    When the credit card company returns the money for a purchase, as described here, it’s called a chargeback. Jan 4, 2023 at 3:33
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    For what it's worth, at least in the U.S., you normally immediately get a credit back on your card when you file a chargeback, though the charge is eventually added back to the card if your dispute is ultimately found in the merchant's favor.
    – reirab
    Jan 5, 2023 at 0:01
  • @reirab Right, but you still don't pay the charge if it's your position that the merchant didn't deliver as agreed. If the credit card company finds in the merchant's favor, that just means that they are taking the place of the merchant as the faulting party and any reason you could use not to pay the merchant you can now use not to pay the credit card company. (You can also pay the credit card company and sue the merchant. It's your choice.) Jan 5, 2023 at 20:30
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Suppose I pay by money order, not debit card. If the mechant scams me, will the Post Office refund me?

No.

The only difference between a money order and cash for all practical purposes is that a money order is only payable to a named payee, while cash can be used by anyone in possession of it.

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    I money order also provides a record which serves as proof that the payment was made, which cash does not. Otherwise I would agree. Jan 4, 2023 at 1:40
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    @DavidSiegel True, although a receipt in an in person cash transaction does basically the same thing. But l actually litigated a case where that exact issue did come up last year and litigation would have been avoided if money orders had been used instead.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 4, 2023 at 1:49
  • @ohwilleke Just curious, did the litigation result in the same outcome as if money orders had been used?
    – nanoman
    Jan 4, 2023 at 14:50
  • @nanoman It did, but at much greater expense. Someone was paid in cash for a car with multiple live witnesses but no receipt shortly before the seller of the car died. Many people had access to her home and the cash was gone when her son went to her place to sort out affairs after her death. He sued believing in good faith that she hadn't been paid. Her son conceded on the day of trial when five witnesses ready to testify appeared in the hallway outside the courtroom half an hour before the trial started in the limited jurisdiction court, in a courthouse located at 11,000 feet elevation or so!
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 4, 2023 at 18:18
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    @supercat that may depend on whether it is a postal money order or one from some other provider. I believe that one who cashes a postal money order must sign a receipt that is retained, and must provide identification, although i think copies of that are not retained. Jan 6, 2023 at 18:49
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I think what I'm asking is, would they be more willing to prosecute for fraud

There are two categories of fraud: criminal fraud and civil fraud. Which category your situation falls into will depend on the details of your case.

If this falls under criminal fraud, then you'll need to file a complaint with the relevant law enforcement agency. Prosecutors will ultimately decide whether to file charges or not. The value/impact of the fraud generally needs to be higher than the costs of pursuing the case, so your odds are best if the perpetrator has done this to many people or if it caused you to lose a sizeable amount of money. It's worth filing a complaint even if you don't think your claim is likely to be prosecuted on its own. Multiple people filing small complaints against the same entity can have the same weight as a single large one.

If this falls under civil fraud, then you'll have to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator. It's completely under your control, so you can fight them as hard as you want to. Small claims court is a good way to quickly and cheaply resolve some cases like this where the dollar amount in question is low. If you're over the small claims threshold, you'll have to decide whether it's worth the expense and hassle of going to court.

In either case, using a money order is not going to change the likelihood that the perpetrator gets taken to court for fraud. The Post Office is only involved as a middleman moving money from point A to point B. It's you that was defrauded, so you're still the one with the standing to make a complaint about it.

Your best bet to avoid this in the future is probably to use a credit card. You have rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act that help resolve disputes related to purchases. When the seller doesn't follow through on their end of the deal, you don't pay anything and the seller doesn't get any money either. Credit card companies have their own tools for fighting these sorts of problems. A pattern of chargebacks can result in anything from fees to losing the ability to process card payments entirely (which can decimate a business).

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    Suing is dependent on actually being able to identify the perpetrator (and then actually being able to get the money out of them after!). If you order from some random online place and they just take your money and run then you're out of luck, they are probably not even in the same country as you and you will never find them, much less actually sue them and get them to pay up. Jan 4, 2023 at 15:38
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    Fraudsters may not be able to accept credit card payments. So if they claim to be a business, and you think they ought to be able to accept credit card payments, and they don't, that's a big red flag.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 6, 2023 at 16:38
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Most payment means are just that: a way to give money to someone else, and the company/organization/network/system allowing it does not care why you make the payment (other than for Fincen-type reporting, maybe) nor whether you actually got in return what you expected (goods or service).

That's the case with cash, checks, wire transfers, most debit cards, money orders, Western Union, etc.

For those payment means, either there's no way to have the payment reversed at all, or it can only be reversed in case of unauthorised payment.

With those payment means, if you don't get the service/goods you ordered, you'll have to take the issue to the merchant itself, and if you don't get satisfaction, to the courts (usually small claims court).

So, no, a money order will not provide more protection than a debit card (I would actually say less). The Post Office will not refund you if there is any issue with the merchant.

Some other payment means include additional protection, where if there is an issue with the purchase, you can file a dispute or chargeback, they will ask the merchant for some evidence (e.g. that the item has been shipped and delivered), and reverse the transaction if they can't provide the evidence.

This is usually the case for credit cards (usually not debit cards), as well as some platforms such as Paypal.

What cases are actually covered or not vary a lot. There may also be a lot of conditions attached (e.g. Paypal will cover you if you make a purchase, not if you send money directly). In many cases, if the merchant actually shipped something and they have proof of delivery, you won't be covered if what you received isn't what you ordered, or it's faulty, or whatever other issue. Services are quite difficult to get protection for.

Nevertheless, even if you don't get a refund, the payment system provider will usually take a note of the issue, and if there are too many for a given merchant, stop working with the merchant, so they're usually quite attentive to that.

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A money order costs 99 cents in the U.S. It does not prove payment, it proves that you bought a money order. Since the question is about a debit card maybe the better question is "Will my bank do a chargeback for a debit card payment?" My guess is "No."

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    The receipt can prove that the money order was cashed, and with more trouble, who it was cashed by. Jan 4, 2023 at 6:04
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    @DavidSiegel How would I go about that? Jan 5, 2023 at 14:56
  • @Ethan Miller If it is a postal money order, the postal officials can provide that information. If it is from a private company, the issuing office or company can usually provide that information. They can use the identifying number on the order to look up then records. Jan 5, 2023 at 15:31
  • So that would be helpful if you purchased from a genuine honest company with a crooked employee who got hold of the payment and put it into their own pocket. So the honest company would now know that the money came into their front door and then disappeared, and being honest and since its not your fault deliver what they should have delivered.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 6, 2023 at 16:41
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For the protection you seek, you want credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard or American Express.

Credit cards provide that protection (merchant disagreements or fraud) by default. That works because the credit card network has a contractual relationship with the merchant.

Postal money orders provide no protection of that sort. The most you can hope for is if the money order is stolen and cashed by someone other than the intended recipient.

If you don't have good credit or don't want to debt, then use a pre-paid credit card, where you have money on deposit and the "credit limit" equals your deposit.

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