UK on alert over counterfeit stamps: Royal Mail being urged to investigate

We’ve all heard of counterfeit money, but did you know there are counterfeit stamps too? If receive a letter with a counterfeit stamp, you could be fined.

UK counterfeit stamps Royal Mail
© Krisztina Papp / Unsplash
UK counterfeit stamps Royal Mail

Counterfeit items are nothing new. There have always been counterfeit versions of luxury brands such as Chanel bags and so on. There is also counterfeit money, coins or pound notes that have been made illegally.

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There are now counterfeit stamps being sold in the UK and it seems that those who have printed them have done an excellent job as it is extremely hard to tell the difference between the genuine stamps and the counterfeit ones.

An investigation has been launched by The Telegraph and Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith revealed to BBC Breakfast that ‘China is behind it’. Here’s everything you need to know.

Counterfeit stamps are being sold

As reported by BBC, counterfeit stamps are being sold in online shops and in small retailers who were unaware the stamps were counterfeit. An investigation led by The Telegraph discovered that the counterfeit stamps were being made by four different Chinese companies.

As per The Telegraph, the counterfeit stamps were being sold for as little as 4p per stamp before being shipped to the UK.

Those who receive a letter with a counterfeit stamp will be fined £5 by Royal Mail, according to BBC News.

A Royal Mail spokesman said:

We are working hard to remove counterfeit stamps from circulation.

Alan Mendoza, from The Henry Jackson Society, explained to BBC Breakfast that at the moment, they are unaware whether or not the Chinese Government is involved, but they know that Chinese firms are:

We don't know the extent on whether the Chinese government are involved - but what we do know is that Chinese firms are involved.

How to tell if a stamp is counterfeit

David Gold, Royal Mail’s director of external affairs told Watchdog that the number of legitimate stamps outnumbers the number of counterfeit stamps and they only represent ‘less than 0.1%’ of the total number of stamps in circulation:

People should understand that the overwhelming majority of stamps on sale are legitimate. The number of [counterfeit] stamps that we are spotting account for less than 0.1% of the total stamps going through the network.

BBC News has listed several tips to help ensure people do not buy counterfeit stamps. They suggest being ‘beware of discounts’ such as a deal that seems ‘too good to be true’ as they might be counterfeit.

Another simple way to avoid buying counterfeit stamps is to buy from, ‘well-known shops’, this means buying from shops that are from a Royal Mail-approved outlet, which includes the Post Office, reputable High Street retailers or the Royal Mail website.

Another way to avoid counterfeit stamps is learning to spot the signs of a potential counterfeit. According to BBC News, some signs include an unusually shiny surface, unusual colouration or inaccurate perforations, but in some cases it can be hard to spot the difference.

Indeed, David Gold admitted to Watchdog that he struggled to tell the difference between a legitimate stamp and the current counterfeit ones:

The reality is counterfeiters now are so good at what they do that even I... can't tell the difference just by looking at them.

Finally, if you have reason to believe you have counterfeit stamps, you can report it by filling out the Royal Mail’s online form or calling the following number 03457 740 740.

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Sources used:

BBC News: ‘Fake UK stamps blamed on Chinese-made counterfeits’

The Telegraph: ‘China behind flood of fake stamps plaguing Britain’

The Guardian: ‘Royal Mail urged to investigate claims of Chinese-made fake stamps’

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