Inside the fake stamp farce: Hundreds say they have been wrongly charged £5 for letters with 'counterfeit' stamps sent by loved ones, solicitors and even the NHS. So why won't Royal Mail investigate?

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Money Mail has been inundated with hundreds of messages from readers who have fallen victim to Royal Mail’s fake stamp farce.

Last week, we revealed a surge in the number of people who claim they have been forced to pay a £5 penalty to receive post sent using stamps that Royal Mail say are ‘counterfeit’.

Recipients receive a small grey card through their letterbox which says they must pay the penalty online or at a customer service point before they can receive their post. Once the fine is paid, the post is either delivered or can be picked up at a sorting office.

We have also heard from senders who say they used stamps bought from legitimate sources, only to be mortified when they find out from the recipient that the stamps have been branded as counterfeit.

Peter May, 63, had to pay a £5 penalty after a friend - who is a detective with the Metropolitan Police - sent him a Christmas card with a fake postage stamp on it

Peter May, 63, had to pay a £5 penalty after a friend – who is a detective with the Metropolitan Police – sent him a Christmas card with a fake postage stamp on it

It is unclear whether these stamps are actually counterfeit or whether there could be an error with Royal Mail’s scanning technology or stamp production process.

Today, we call on the postal service to launch an urgent review to find out why so many fines are being issued and to stem the tide.

People should be able to send letters without fearing that those on the receiving end will be charged. Countless readers tell us that the stamps deemed fake were bought from a Post Office, major supermarket or stationer, and had no visible discoloration, imperfections or marks.

Senders accused of using fake stamps include a solicitor, a police officer – and even an NHS hospital.

Peter Cartwright, 61, was issued with a charge to receive a letter from a top solicitor after the 1st class stamp she used was flagged as counterfeit.

Peter and his wife Janet, who live near Leeds, have been overseeing the care of their friend Vera, 100, for five years as her daughter Lynn lives seven hours away in South Wales.

But when Lynn, a solicitor, sent vital paperwork that was urgently needed for Vera’s care, the stamp was flagged as counterfeit even though she said she had bought it at a Post Office.

Peter and Janet, who are both retired, received a grey card through the post that said they needed to collect the letter from their local delivery office, which is only open between 8 and 10am.

‘There is no way on earth that Lynn would have intentionally sent a letter with a counterfeit stamp,’ says Peter.

Len Butterfield is one of three readers who wrote to Money Mail after they were charged £5 to retrieve bereavement cards sent by friends after a loved one passed away.

Another reader, Margaret Patten, told how she had to pay the fee to pick up an NHS letter reminding her of an urgent appointment.

Peter May, 63, had to pay £5 after a friend – who is a detective with the Metropolitan Police – sent him a Christmas card with a 1st class stamp flagged as counterfeit.

The retired construction director was frustrated to receive a notification from the Royal Mail on December 29 to say that he needed to pay to collect the card, which had been sent well in advance of Christmas Day.

Peter, from Nottingham, says: ‘I took the letter with the stamp to the Post Office and showed it to a friend who is a postman. He believes the stamp is genuine.

‘When we asked the sender where she bought the stamp, she told us it was at the Post Office.’

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If you suspect that you have accidentally purchased a counterfeit stamp, visit royalmail.com/report-stamp-fraud.

Royal Mail has so far refused to launch a full investigation into the surge in counterfeit stamps.

However, a spokesman says: ‘It is vital we can investigate any instance where a person believes their stamps have been incorrectly identified as counterfeit or pre-used.

‘To do this, we require any customer who believes they have been incorrectly surcharged to send the envelope with the barcoded stamp attached to us, along with the exact location of where the stamp was purchased.

‘We have a robust, multi-stage process in place when assessing whether barcoded stamps are genuine.

‘We will always happily review individual cases and if an error has been made then we will of course correct it.’