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snopes
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Comment: I was reading on the frugal about.com board and someone's
claiming it's illegal to use a stamp which has been put on a envelope but
not used because you changed your mind about sending that particular
letter. They said it's illegal to even take it off and put it on a
different letter and mail it. I googled it and see other similar posts. I
think it's a urban myth. Is it?

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DrRocket
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I've done it. Never a problem.

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Squishy0405
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I think I've taken a stamp off right away and gotten a little paper on the back and used tape. I would say as long as it hasn't been stamped over (the post office lines after the postmark) that it would be ok? I never got any back...

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Ophiuchus
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How would one know if you did or not? If they haven't been through the post office and post-marked, then I don't see any way of detecting pre-used stamps.

Also, the stamps are meant as payment for the service of shipping the letter. So if no shipping was made, no payment need be made.

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smackmac
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I heard that, too. Doesn't stop me from trying, tho.

I know it's illegal to use tape on a stamp. I guess so that you can't take it off an re-use it.

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liebeslied
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Most inks don't stick very well to Scotch tape either. But it should be okay to tape the bottom of the stamp to the envelope, as long as there's no tape on the stamp's face. I'd use glue; probably holds better.
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snopes
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I don't think it's illegal. I'm guessing people have somehow garbled the idea that if you remove an unused stamp from one item and affix it to another, some of the original backing will remain stuck to it, and the USPS might possibly flag it as a re-used stamp.

In any case, I doubt the USPS bothers to chase after any but the most flagrant of stamp re-use abusers, though.

- snopes

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Squishy0405
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I usually put a little piece on the top and fold it over the top of the envelope ...I usually don't cover the whole stamp unless it just won't stick at all (clarifying)

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Avril
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I once found a stamp in the street, like a person might find coins. It was the kind you lick but it had pretty much lost its stickiness. There were no cancellation marks so I used tape around the edges of the stamp and mailed a letter to a friend. (I was about 11 at the time.) It came back to me with all kinds of ominious looking things stamped on it from the post office about how reusing stamps was illegal, attempted fraud, punishable by up to...something or other. Apparently this one offense only got a warning.

I think the idea is that you're not supposed to reuse stamps that didn't get cancelled in the mail for whatever reason. I can't see why resticking a stamp to a different envelope because you've changed your mind would be a problem.

Avril

ETA: I googled and came up with this warning about the practice from the USPS. I also found this forum on the subject.

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MaxGunnar
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I work at the post office on the cancelation machines, it's your stamp until you drop your envelope in the box. We don't like the clear tape because it gets stuck on the indicia detectors and OCR plates
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nurple
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I've re-used stamps that didn't get cancelled without a problem. I used a glue stick to attach them to the envelopes instead of tape.

ETA: Oops. I guess I committed a federal crime then.

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Giant Communist Robot
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quote:
I know it's illegal to use tape on a stamp
Stamps have an invisible UV coating on them. As the stamp passes through the cancelling machine, they are briefly illuminated by UV lamps and the glow is detected by a sensor. Once detected, the stamp will be cancelled.

If tape covers the stamp, there will be insufficient glow to be detected and the stamp will not cancel; it will bypass and be handled manually later.

There is a practice called 'washing' where chemicals are used on cancelled stamps to remove the indica mark, but this also takes off the UV coating, so it doesn't work.

As far as being illegal, if any stamp is covered or reused they are returned to sender if the postal employees have the time to do so.

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MaxGunnar
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Now that is Illegal, I was told that the USPS loses millions of dollar due to people "Washing stamps" I'll dig up a cite if I can
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TheBobo
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quote:
Originally posted by nurple loves Cobras:
I've re-used stamps that didn't get cancelled without a problem. I used a glue stick to attach them to the envelopes instead of tape.

ETA: Oops. I guess I committed a federal crime then.

Me too!
If I get an envelope with a stamp that has no cancellation markings I will re-use it. It is like found money.
About a year ago I did it and somehow the post office knew. My letter was rejected with something about that the stamp was previously used.
Someday I betchya they are going to come up with bar coding or something akin to it. Will then close this little loophole that many of us use.

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Purple Iguana
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A friend of mine actually got away with steaming a stamp off a letter I sent to her so that she could send a letter back to me. I'm guessing that this generally isn't allowed, but it managed to skip past the scanners and whatnot at the post office. To be honest, I never would have noticed it except that she put in her letter "I'm reusing the stamp you sent me."

On a slightly different track, one time I sealed a letter, then cut it open to add something. I used scotch tape to re-seal the flap, only the tape went over the top part of the stamp. That envelope got returned to me with some kind of notice that mail could not be sent if the stamp had been tampered with (meaning the tape that was touching it).

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Mr. Furious
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quote:
Originally posted by Squishy0405:
I think I've taken a stamp off right away and gotten a little paper on the back and used tape. I would say as long as it hasn't been stamped over (the post office lines after the postmark) that it would be ok? I never got any back...

If a letter has been mailed, the stamp cannot be reused, regardless of whether it's cancelled or not. It's rare, but sometimes the cancelling machines miss a letter.

snopes is right in that the USPS doesn't have the time or manpower to go after someone who does it occasionally, so if you do it, you're probably going to get away with it. If you do it a lot (and I mean a lot), you could be charged with fraud and do some time in federal PMITA prison.

ETA: To clarify Max's point, it's your letter until it comes into the possession of the USPS. Your mailbox is your property, so if you decide to take a letter out before the letter carrier comes, you're free to do so. That's not the case with the USPS drop boxes, or after the carrier takes the letter from your box.

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MaxGunnar
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If your doing it on a large scale the Postal Inspectors WILL come after your ass and it's a Federal beef. whats a PMITA?
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emperor_genghis_khan
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PMITA is a NSFBSK slang term meaning "Pound Me In The A__" Well you used the other word in your post

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VW girl
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I just came back from the post office and there is a sign on the door that says it is illegal to reuse stamps, cancelled or not.

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jimmy101
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quote:
Originally posted by VW girl:
I just came back from the post office and there is a sign on the door that says it is illegal to reuse stamps, cancelled or not.

But as others have posted, a stamp hasn't been "used" until it is picked up by the post office?
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Avril
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Yes, the warning I linked to above reads:

quote:
Once a stamp has been used,* it is a federal crime to...reuse a stamp...
Somehow my feeling is that just letting it sit on an envelope doesn't count as using the stamp.

Avril

*emphasis mine

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skeptic
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If removing the cancellation mark is so easy, there is a far more profitable way to do it. Removing the cancellation from an old (as in antique) stamp will make it far more valuable. The difference between mint and used on some stamps with a high face value can be hundreds of dollars. It might not fool an expert, but might get passed a less experienced collector.
I'm not advocating fraud, just curious as to why anyone would bother with common stamps when the most you can save is a few dollars and facing a federal rap.
(Not sure, but I don't think philatelic fraud would be a federal offence)

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MaxGunnar
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Illeagal mass mailers will try to run washed or counterfiet stamps. If your trying to flood an area with ads and they know people are more inclined to open a letter that has full postage on it. And you figure say 50,000 letters at 39cents a letter comes to 19,500 DOLLARS
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Ganzfeld
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quote:
Illeagal mass mailers will try to run washed or counterfiet stamps.
It seems like a very risky venture to use counterfeit stamps in mass mailings. Unlike cash, which is away from your hands once you use it, those stamps will sit around for years and years attached to envelopes with your address on them (or some related address by which the people who profited can be traced). Why would someone take such a huge risk for such a small payoff? Not to say it doesn't happen. However, it is probably more common to forge tax revenue stamps and collectible stamps as these don't leave a business card for the forger or the user.
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Joseph Z
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http://www.linns.com/howto/refresher/postmarks_19990510/refreshercourse.asp?uID=
quote:
From the earliest days of United States postage stamp production, one of the great concerns of the post office has been preventing the illegal reuse of stamps.

This is generally accomplished by applying a postmark or other cancellation that invalidates the stamp.

The terms "postmark" and "cancellation" have specific meanings that are different from one another.

http://www.nku.edu/~yannarella/news0105.html
quote:
Did you ever peel off an uncancelled postage stamp off an envelope just received in the mail, and use that stamp again? If so, you have committed a federal crime!!! Per the Postal Poster Warning! Reusing Postage (a pdf file), which cites U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 471and 1720 it is illegal to "Reuse a postage stamp whether cancelled or not". It is also a crime to attempt to remove cancellation marks from postage stamps


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rogue
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Slight hijack:

quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Furious:
ETA: To clarify Max's point, it's your letter until it comes into the possession of the USPS. Your mailbox is your property, so if you decide to take a letter out before the letter carrier comes, you're free to do so. That's not the case with the USPS drop boxes, or after the carrier takes the letter from your box.

Can I take this to mean that, once I drop a letter into the post office box, it becomes the GOVERNMENT'S property? Does this mean that, like trash I put on the curb, the police can freely open and read my mail since it is no longer my property?

-rogue

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MaxGunnar
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It takes a court order to zip open somebody's mail and it's still the most secure form of communication. Only two things get get fired at the PO, work place violence and open somebody elses mail of ANY class. so no its not government property
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snopes
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quote:
Only two things get you fired at the PO, work place violence and open somebody elses mail of ANY class. so no its not government property
Not so. All USPS employees have, for example, broad latitude to open and inspect any item sent via media mail:

Media Mail searches raise privacy concerns

- snopes

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MaxGunnar
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quote:
Law mandates that the USPS "'maintain one or more classes of mail for the transmission of letter sealed against inspection,'" which is why Priority Mail is offered, Urban said.

"The USPS will probably say that they have a class of mail ... that is 'sealed against inspection' without a warrant, and that you can always send books and documents through first class mail if you're concerned," Urban said.

Alvarez said that customers could send items by Priority Mail to avoid Media Mail's random inspections.

For Priority Mail or any other type of domestic mail to be inspected, postal workers must obtain a judge's warrant or have the authorization of the addressee.

Even though these rules do not apply to Media Mail, such packages are rarely randomly checked, Alvarez said. Postal employees check Media Mail packages that appear suspicious - too heavy for their size, show no return address or have awkward writing, he said.

But inspection of Media Mail packages is only to combat revenue loss, said Dockweiler supervisor Denise Bostic.

Sorry, guess I havn't read the latest Postal employee's handbook yet. Still using the old one.

Again not just any clerk/carrier/tech can open your mail. I'm still of the opinion when I put a stamp on a first class envolope I'm more secure than chatting/banking on my laptop at StarBucks or using a cordless or cell phone.

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MaxGunnar
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There's another scam that will land you in hot water is where you put the addressee in the return address spot and your address in the recipient's and put no or little postage on it. We see this mostly form jails,prisons and mental hospitals.
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Lainie
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quote:
Originally posted by rogue:
Slight hijack:

quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Furious:
ETA: To clarify Max's point, it's your letter until it comes into the possession of the USPS. Your mailbox is your property, so if you decide to take a letter out before the letter carrier comes, you're free to do so. That's not the case with the USPS drop boxes, or after the carrier takes the letter from your box.

Can I take this to mean that, once I drop a letter into the post office box, it becomes the GOVERNMENT'S property? Does this mean that, like trash I put on the curb, the police can freely open and read my mail since it is no longer my property?

-rogue

I think the law is actually intended to protect your mail from interference by non-governmental parties, by putting the force of the federal government behind laws against stealing or tampering with the mail.

Mail isn't analogous to trash because, when you place trash at the curb, you are, by definition, discarding it. You aren't discarding your mail when you put it in the drop box: you're entrusting it to the USPS for delivery.

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Squishy0405
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quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Furious:
quote:
Originally posted by Squishy0405:
I think I've taken a stamp off right away and gotten a little paper on the back and used tape. I would say as long as it hasn't been stamped over (the post office lines after the postmark) that it would be ok? I never got any back...

If a letter has been mailed, the stamp cannot be reused, regardless of whether it's cancelled or not. It's rare, but sometimes the cancelling machines miss a letter.

snopes is right in that the USPS doesn't have the time or manpower to go after someone who does it occasionally, so if you do it, you're probably going to get away with it. If you do it a lot (and I mean a lot), you could be charged with fraud and do some time in federal PMITA prison.

ETA: To clarify Max's point, it's your letter until it comes into the possession of the USPS. Your mailbox is your property, so if you decide to take a letter out before the letter carrier comes, you're free to do so. That's not the case with the USPS drop boxes, or after the carrier takes the letter from your box.

Yikes! [Eek!] Just to point out I have never tried to use a stamp that I've recieved. Only transfer *my* stamp that I have at home that's never been used to a different envelope. I've never gotten anything back that I've taped for security. The keypoint above being *if the letter is mailed*...mine have not been mailed yet...yay no jail for me [Embarrassed]

I have a question, what about letters with insufficent postage. Are those marked as "allowed" stamps b/c u just put the extra on? Wouldn't that in a sense be re-using...It hasn't been mailed to it's destination but the P.O. had it in possesion...

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MaxGunnar
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quote:
I have a question, what about letters with insufficent postage. Are those marked as "allowed" stamps b/c u just put the extra on? Wouldn't that in a sense be re-using...It hasn't been mailed to it's destination but the P.O. had it in possesion...

Ya get screwed unless the counter clerk or carrier and you catch it, what ever postage is on it gets canceled, by hand if nessecary and you have to put full postage on it
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HazyCosmicJive
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At my office we get a lot of overnight mail where the mailer first put it in a stamped envelope, then by the time he or she got around to mailing it, it was late, so they put the entire stamped envelope in an express mail envelope and mail it that way. These stamps haven't been used for postage. They're essentially as if someone just mailed me a sheet of unused stamps. I routinely cut them off of the envelopes and re-use them.

As pointed out above, if it's an issue of the stamp having been affixed to something but not having been used, I can't imagine there's anything illegal about that.

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Mr. Furious
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quote:
Originally posted by HazyCosmicJive:
As pointed out above, if it's an issue of the stamp having been affixed to something but not having been used, I can't imagine there's anything illegal about that.

You are correct. The stamp was not used for postage, so it can be reused legally.

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