The 2-cent Scam

Recently I received a first-class letter bearing a 2-cent stamp- and no, the letter hadn’t been lost in post office limbo since 1932, the last time postage was that cheap.

The missive carried a tempting offer. By sending S10 to an Irving P. O. box, I could learn how to save 95 percent on mailing costs-and make money selling the information to others. So 1 sent my $ 10 and, two weeks later, received a one-page “research report” claiming that the postal service is “not part of the Federal Government,” and therefore, any citizen is free to negotiate the price of postage. Since the 29-cent price lacks the force of law, the letter assured me, I was free to make a “counteroffer” of two cents.

Sound good? Not so fast, say postal authorities.

“This is a variation on the 6-cent scam,” says Fort Worth Division postal inspector Linda Kirksey. “It resurfaces now and then, usually after a rate increase.”

It’s true that letters bearing 2-cent stamps are often delivered, as the “research report” claims. Such mail is supposed to be marked “Insufficient Postage” and forwarded on to the addressee, who is supposed to pay the difference. However, most mail is sorted by machines, and mail carriers don’t always enforce the rule, Kirksey says. “Occasionally they do get delivered without us collecting postage due. That perpetrates the rumor that you can mail first-class for 2 cents.”

The Irving entrepreneur, says Kirksey, is committing mail fraud, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“But now let’s be practical,” she laughs. “What U.S. attorney is going to spend his time and take a case on someone mailing postage envelopes for 2 cents?”

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