Chain letters ?are a problem


AUSTRALIA Post cannot do a lot to stem the avalanche of chain letters, says AP public relations officer Sheridan Beattie.

Ms Beattie said Australia Post could not detect chain letters which were individually and properly addressed and stamped.

But she said they did try to 'tip off' people using its Unaddressed Delivery Service (UDS) if they thought the material would not be in the interests of the people receiving it.

The UDS is Australia Post's 'junk mail' service for delivering catalogues and brochures which are addressed simply to The Householder or The Resident. For a fee of about 17c each, Australia Post will deliver these to households in a selected postcode area.

A number of Coffs Coast residents have recently received pyramid selling chain letters, some of which recommend using Australia Post's UDS service.

Ms Beattie said Australia Post could only advise the person sending out the mail.

"We are not the police , we can't stop people using our service," Ms Beattie said.

"We don't advise anyone to send cash through the mail and we tell people to use their better judgment.

"If they think the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is."

She said in the past chain letter senders had often used school children and Australia Post had written to principals and school newsletters service.

"We get asked about it all the time," Ms Beattie said. We do try to stop it because it does not give the postal system a very good name."

Ms Beattie said people using the Australia Post UDS service needed to fill out a form and apply and had to provide a written description of what the product was they were selling.

"We do try to refer instances of it (use of UDS for chain letters) to Reba Meagher's office," Ms Beattie said. Reba Meagher is the NSW Minister responsible for the Office of Fair Trading.

The most common chain letters involving money ask people to mail cash to a list of people or the person on the top of a list and to distribute hundreds more letters.

The local manager of the Fair Trading Centre, Margaret Munro, said no matter what the letters claimed, they were pyramid selling, which was illegal and people who knowingly perpetuated the chain could be prosecuted.

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