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Sat, May 06, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Post office scam exposed

RIP-OFF The post office's pay-on-delivery system lends itself to a new kind of scam that is almost impossible to trace, according to a Taipei City Councilor's experience

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Speaking from his own experience, a Taipei city councilor yesterday lashed out at what he called a new kind of crime which uses postal services for extortion.

According to Chen, he received a notice from the regional post office in April 1999 informing him to pick up a package.

At the counter Chen was asked to pay NT$5,000 to collect the package, which specified "invoice material inside." The payment method is part of the post office's cash on delivery service.

He later found out there was no invoice inside but a pornographic video tape, which he says he did not order.

"It's one of the safest, easiest and most convenient ways of making huge profits in the shortest period of time," said KMT city councilor Chen Yung-te (陳永德). "In my case, the postal fee for the package costs NT$59, plus the shipping and handling fee of NT$20, the receipt printing fee for NT$20, and the tape itself NT$100. So with only a NT$200 investment the culprit recovers NT$5,000."

Chen further criticized the post office for unintentionally becoming the accomplice because it does not have any counter policy to tackle the problem.

"Some 1,200 post offices nationwide apparently have become a convenient medium for open and legal money laundering," he said.

Citing two more cases brought to his attention, Chen said, one of the victims ended up paying NT$3,800 for only the shell of a mobile phone after he had placed an order over the Internet for a mobile phone set.

The other was asked to wire a total of NT$300,000 to someone who claimed to be able to provide a tip-off allowing him to find his lost luxury car, which was later discovered to have been stolen by the informant.

According to Chen, several factors contribute to this kind of crime.

"Because most of the victims are either well-off or upper-class, they seldom care about how much they have to pay to pick up the package," he said. "In addition, most people hesitate to report to the police because they do not want to lose face."

Besides, Chen said, people don't usually refuse any packages addressed to them even though they're not 100 percent sure about what's inside, because they don't want to risk missing a potentially important package.

Chen called for more protections in the interest of consumers.

"Recipients should be entitled to open the package to know the content in advance, or the post office should consider installing an X-ray scanning system to make sure the content matches with the specification on the outside slip," he said.

Yeh Shu-mei (葉淑美), cash on delivery section chief of the Directorate General of Posts (郵政總局), said certain measures have recently been adopted.

"The content inspection of cash on delivery products became mandatory on May 1 this year, and recipients are entitled to open the package on the spot to ensure the content matches their order. They can also refuse the delivery if it's not what they ordered," Yeh said.

She added that recipients can later ask for a monetary refund from the post office if the request is made no later than two days after payment, otherwise they must claim it directly from the sender.

However, since most senders use a forged name, address and telephone number, it is hard for the police to track down or even crack the case.

"That's why I encourage both the public and the post office to report to the police as soon as such a crime has taken place," said Chen Tse-wen, deputy commanding officer of the municipal police department. "In addition, be careful when giving out your contact numbers and addresses."

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