I was reading over the June 7th FDIC Consumer Tip of the Week regarding steps to take to prevent check fraud. It referenced a 2007 FDIC Consumer News article
with some tips about avoiding fake checks and money orders. Most of these tips are now common knowledge (like don't accept checks from strangers). However, I did not know about this one if you need to receive payment from a stranger:
consider asking for a money order from the U.S. Postal Service. These come in values of up to $1,000 for domestic money orders and up to $700 for international money orders.
To confirm that a Postal Service money order is valid or to cash it, you can take it to a local post office. You can also verify a Postal Service money order by using an automated service at toll-free 1-866-459-7822.
Here's the USPS Money Order page. They appear to be inexpensive, convenient and secure.
Money orders from private companies are more likely to be fake. Clark Howard had a show note