Monday, December 6, 2010

Counterfeit Postage Stamps: No Kidding

"Counterfeit Stamps Giving Postal Service a Lickin’"
Jana Winter, (December 6, 2010)

"As the U.S. Postal Service grapples with service cuts and massive budget shortfalls, an estimated $134.4 million dollars of its annual revenue is quietly slipping away to counterfeiters and perpetrators of other types of postal fraud.

"Counterfeit stamps have been identified as a steady, recurring risk for the U.S. Postal Service, which reported a loss of $8.5 billion in the last fiscal year, and they are one of the 10 biggest threats to Postal Service revenue, according to the 2009 annual report of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the Post Office.

"Bogus stamps affect the consumers who buy them, too. People who buy stamps online or at local stores are at risk of unknowingly purchasing counterfeits — and then having their mail returned unopened.

You can take my word on this. I'm one of them....

Counterfeit postage stamps?

The Lemming doesn't have to worry about this, so much: my household gets postage at the local Post Office, where the odds of getting bogus stamps is nearly nil. Still, the Lemming doesn't think that a 'my end of the boat isn't sinking' attitude is a good idea. I've discussed the Lemming's sort of "apathy" before.

Aside from philosophical issues like 'is it right to not pay for goods and services?' - There's a very practical reason for not using counterfeit stamps.

The U.S. Postal Service won't deliver mail with bogus stamps - and has ways of detecting the things.

The good news is that unwittingly buying bogus stamps and using them isn't a crime.

The bad news is that the envelope bouncing back to you might contain your rent check. Landlords are notorious for not having a sense of humor over late payments. And that's another topic.

Okay: So using bogus stamps is a bad idea. How can a person avoid buying the things?

Back to the article, advice from U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesman, Postal Inspector Michael Romano:

"...Postal Inspector Michael Romano ... said people need to be aware that there are fake stamps on the market, and they should make sure they’re buying the real deal if they want their mail to go through.

" 'To avoid being scammed, U.S. Postal Service stamps and products should be purchased either at a U.S. Post Office, or a reputable vendor. Customers should be weary about purchasing these products at a price significantly lower than their current value,' he said....

"...How can you tell if a stamp is counterfeit? Fake 44-cent American Flag stamps are usually a brighter blue, Romano said; the real ones have more of a navy blue or purple hue...."

There's more to the article - including the none-too-new advice that 'if it sounds too good to be true - it probably is.' So, those discount 'genuinely real Untied States Postal Stampings?' The ones you found online?

They could be bogus. So could the bright-blue ones at that store down the street. The ones the store manager got from some guy who walked in the other day.

Bottom line, apparently, is: use common sense, and accept the idea that a 44-cent stamp will cost 44 cents.

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