Married couple sells used stamps as new

A married couple whose lavish lifestyle was funded by washing 700,000 used stamps and selling them as new on eBay and Amazon have been convicted of fraud. Paul Harrison, 52, defrauded Royal Mail out of more than £400,000 by removing the stamps' frank marks so they could be passed off as new to people online.

He and his wife Samantha, 44, used the proceeds of the elaborate fraud to pay for luxury holidays and a BMW with personalised number plates.  

Mr Harrison was involved in the sale of around 700,000 stamps which resulted in Royal Mail losing £421,000, Birmingham Crown Court heard.

Just over £215,000 of the money went into the Harrisons' joint account, while his accomplice Graham Rought pocketed £43,000, the court was told.

Mr Harrison was today jailed for four years at Birmingham Crown Court after being convicted of adapting, supplying and possessing articles for fraud. He had previously admitted money laundering and another charge of supplying articles for fraud.

After recruiting his wife to take part in the scam, she was convicted of money laundering and given a two-year suspended prison sentence with 150 hours unpaid work. 

They were caught when envelopes, mainly addressed to schools in Scotland, were rejected at a sorting office in Glasgow.

Tests revealed the stamps had no signs of phosphor, which shows up under ultraviolet light to enable machine-sorting of mail.

The stamps were traced back to Harrison's home in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. When police raided the £200,000 property they found evidence of stamp washing 'all over the address', including towels used to dry them.

Police armed with Tasers also raided former dental technician Graham Rought's garden shed as he was washing stamps. 

Ben Close, prosecuting, said: 'This offence involves the obtaining and selling of large quantities of stamps which had already been through the postage system.

'They bought second-hand stamps, removed from envelopes, and sold them on so they could be reused.

'Paul Harrison accepts he put them on greaseproof paper to make them appear as if new.

'Rought was involved in washing off the franking marks.' He added Harrison had operated an online account called Affordable Stamps since June 2007 while Rought had been involved in the fraud for two and half years.

How can I be sure that I'm buying genuine stamps?

Genuine stamps will have the following anti-fraud features:

  • Die cuts within the body of the stamps
  • The words 'Royal Mail' printed in a special ink across the surface of the stamp
  • Wider oval perforations along both sides, close to the base of the stamp
  • Books and sheets of stamps will have a secure laminate underprint featuring the words ‘Royal Mail’

How can I spot used or counterfeit stamps?

Counterfeit stamps vary in quality and type and may be difficult to identify. Some may have one or more of the following characteristics on our 1st and 2nd Class stamps:

  • Cost less than the official Royal Mail prices
  • Security ovals on each side of the stamp are missing or uneven
  • Unusual colourings
  • Uneven borders
  • An unusually shiny surface
  • Stamps may be stuck on to what appears to be greaseproof paper
  • Books of stamps with anything other than 6 or 12 stamps included. Royal Mail only sell 1st and 2nd class stamps in books of 6 and 12.

How can I spot used or counterfeit stamps advertised on a website?

It's not possible to tell if stamps are genuine or not from pictures on a website, usually because the stamps displayed might not be those you receive and it's hard to tell from the photos.

To be safe, we recommend you always buy stamps from reputable Royal Mail approved outlets. If in doubt, stamps are available in Post Offices throughout the UK and on the Royal Mail shop.

How can I spot used stamps?

Used stamps might have some of the features below:

  • Cost less than the official Royal Mail prices
  • Fainter and inconsistent in colour
  • Dull or non-existent iridescent overprint (the shiny text across the stamp and Queen's head)
  • Roughened or damaged surface
  • Faint cancellation marks across the surface of the stamp
  • Old envelope or backing paper still attached to the stamp
  • Sold ungummed or stuck onto plain backing paper without the Royal Mail security print
  • Damaged or removed security ovals on either side

If you think that that the stamps you got are fraud contact https://www.royalmail.com/report-stamp-fraud

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