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Old stamps, new tricks: how to avoid stamp fraud

In November 2018 the Charity Commission sent an alert to the sector about postal stamp fraud. John Kitchen from Royal Mail explains why charities need to be aware of the problem, to avoid getting caught up in fraud.

From milk bottle tops to aluminium cans, collecting used items for charity is something many of us will be familiar with. But one seemingly harmless charity request is giving law enforcement agents sleepless nights.

Used stamps are collected by many charities as part of their fundraising efforts. These stamps are then sold on to third parties like stamp collectors or stamp dealers, with the money going to good causes.  

So far, so admirable, you might think. But the stamp journey doesn’t end there.

Once bought, many of these stamps are then prepared and resold as if they were valid for postage. Criminal gangs are making lots of money from this type of fraud, money that can be used to fund crime on a larger, more serious scale.

When used stamps are resold to be used again, at a lower price than you’d pay at the Post Office or the supermarket, it’s stamp fraud.

And charities that sell packages of used stamps in bulk for profit – often known as ‘kiloware’ – may be allowing fraud to happen without realising it. Fundraisers may think they’re selling stamps to collectors, but this is rarely the case. These stamps have little, if any collectable value.

The best way to avoid getting your organisation involved in this type of fraud is to avoid this activity altogether. You should only do it if you’re confident that the stamps you’re collecting and selling are going to genuine collectors.

How to avoid stamp fraud

The following tips will help you spot the real collectors from the stamp fraudsters, to avoid putting your organisation’s reputation at risk:

  1. Decline requests from individuals or groups who want to buy used British stamps from you, whether they contact you directly or through an online marketplace such as eBay, Amazon or Gumtree. You should also tell Royal Mail if you think a request may not be from a genuine dealer.

  2. If you’re confident that your stamps are going to collectors, check the type that you are collecting. Foreign stamps are less likely to be fraudulently sold, for example.

  3. Check that your charity name isn’t being used in online ‘kiloware’ advertising without your permission. This is surprisingly common.   

  4. Only buy stamps from the Post Office, the Royal Mail website or any other well-known store. Stamps aren’t usually sold at a discounted price.

To report suspected stamp fraud, or to find out more about it, visit the Royal Mail website.