Are the Royal Mail accessories to scam mail?
Scam mail has been a pretty constant fixture in Britain for some years now, usually being taken up by the vulnerable and making off with their money. Of course, the Royal Mail are obliged to deliver this nefarious mail once it enters their system; but is there more to the Royal Mail's involvement than they're letting on?
A BBC Panorama investigation has discovered that Royal Mail owns 33% of a Netherlands-based company that is aiding the flow of scam mail through our letterboxes.
While Spring Global Mail handles a lot of legitimate international business correspondence, they are used by fraudsters. Together, Spring Global and Royal Mail offer something called "local look", which means that overseas mail has a Royal Mail postmark and no trace of their overseas origins, leaving these scam letters undetectable and bearing what many feel is a seal of legitimacy.
Fraud investigator Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Head of City of London Police says: "I think the downside is that when people get that and they see that Royal Mail brand, that brand counts for something. That whole idea that in actual fact there is this local look, somehow gives that mail that kind of credibility."
Mike Haley, director of the National Fraud Authority, says: "We're trying to make Spring Global and Royal Mail more aware of the human tragedy that this type of fraudulent mail impacts on victims. I think they need to understand the terrible consequences of delivery of this mail to some people."
In a statement, Royal Mail have said that they are working closely with police to stop scam mail from entering the system: "We very much understand the upset and disquiet that scam mail can cause households across the country, including vulnerable people. We do not want our postmen or women handling or delivering mail that causes harm. We have made significant progress in our efforts to root out scam mail as we intensify our drive against it."
"If this turns out to be scam mail harmful to the recipients, we will stop it, irrespective of the cost and loss of revenue to Royal Mail."
Spring Global are also working with authorities in an attempt to stem the flow of junk and scam mail, but if they are both making money from the ventures, are they likely to really put the scuppers on it, especially given that the postal service is being phased out in favour of electronic communication?
The Panorama: Why Hate Junk Mail? special will be on BBC One, Monday, 4 July at 2030.