Preventing Mailing Frauds, Learn to Read a USPS 3602
Phony USPS form 3602
In a recent series of cases I have found publishers using dummied up or phony US Postal Service Form 3602 to defraud advertisers.
So what is PS Form 3602 and why is it so important to advertisers?
PS Form 3602 is a form that will show advertisers, who; depend upon direct mail, advertise in publications, or bulk mail couponing – exactly how many pieces of the advertisements or magazines were mailed out. If one contracted with a mailing house to print and mail 100,000 coupons – the mailing customer will get an independent verification of the size and date of the mailing visa-vi the disclosures made on PS Form 3602. If one has purchased advertising in a magazine to be delivered by mail, PS Form 3602 provides independent verification that the number, location, and quantity of magazines were mailed out. The PS Form 3602 is used as the proof of claim on the circulation of a magazine well as the proof of the number of pieces mailed in a mailing campaign.
For sake of this presentation, lets assume you are an advertiser looking at a magazine that is mailing 100,000 magazines to homeowners. There are many other types of mailings that uses a PS Form 3602 and many different PS 3602 forms, such as ones for non-profit or government, but this example is for magazines or general mailers and has some fun twists and turns that show you how to read PS Form 3602 and how to spot fake or misleading ones. Thus, please download your own 3602 and look at it as we discuss the form and the information to be contained on the form.
There are four tiers of information on the first page. Let’s being with the first tier called “Mailer Information” or sometimes just “Mailer”. One can find these tiers on the left side of the document with vertical writing. The first is the Permit Holder’s name and mailing address. If this is not the first tier, what you may also find is a “Mailing Group” where a printing house and a mailing form is working together to both print and mail the publication. Here you will have key bits of information such as a group ID, the Preparer and the Job Description.
The Mailer tier begins with the name of the mailer, mailing address and will often contain the full name of a contact person, with their telephone number and email address. The next field will have the name of the mailing agent – again with the full name, address and often their telephone number and email address. The last is the name of the Organization or Individual for which the mailing is prepared if it is some one other than the permit holder. You will also see something called a CRID Number of Customer Registration Identification Number. A CRID is a customer registration number that is assigned for each unique business location that is or has been identified in the US Postal system’s application. A new CRID is created whenever a user enters a new address location when signing up for a business account through the Business Customer Gateway. Currently CRIDs are created when the combination of business name and address is unique. In many cases, multiple CRIDs have been created by many users at the same location. Such multiple CRID assignments are generally due to the manner in which the user creating the location account has entered the business name and/or location. Over time, numerous users have entered business name and location data into several postal systems and they may have several CRIDs.
This section on 3602 when being fiddled with generally have insufficient information, often the name and address of the mailing agent is missing or significantly incomplete. This dearth of information is also a common occurrence in the Permits Holder’s section. There are many ways to generate a 3602 and most 3602s are generated by the mailer or the mailing agent and acknowledged by the Post Office. Sometimes you will see an acknowledgement in the top right hand corner and sometimes you will see at the bottom with the round post office stamp – but as the UPS goes more electronic – some good 3602s do not possess the customary round stamp – this may be asked for, but is not necessary anymore. Me, I would ask for it as a matter of course just to see how the mailing house responds.
The Mailing tier.
Let us being with the post office of mailing. If you contract for a magazine to be printed and mailed in Illinois and the post office of mailing is in Kentucky that may be just fine. The printer and the mailer may have got the best deal on printing in Kentucky and/or if this is the best location to ship the magazines from – it makes sense. It is also not unusual to have truck after truck of magazines shipped across the country to cut mailing rates by a .01 – but if you are mailing a million pieces and the cost of trucking is half that, you have saved .005 on a million magazines or $5,000.
The permit number is generally issued at the local post office. As these are issued by a local post office, and the postal systems operates in zones, if you have permit number 7000 in Chicago, it is unlikely that anyone in St Louis will have information on that permit number. One often needs to work back through the CRID to find the local post office that issued the permit.
The point is you may have a magazine that is going to residents in Il – but the PS does not care where the mailer is dropped off. It is OK to have a magazine bound for IL residents mailed from KY.
The Mailer’s date is the date the mailing was put into the system – it does not mean all the of the pieces went out on that date. Those pieces enumerated in the 3602 can be delivered the post office at anytime in the next 90 days – or not at all. So if you claim to have mailed 100,000 pieces on that day – you still can still have a PS 3602 intimating that you have sent the 100,000 magazines – and than drop 33,333 each month or none.
Weight of a single piece. If you are sending out the same magazine to everyone, it should show a uniform weight per piece, but of you are sending different magazines by the same publisher – what you will see is “Non Identical”. This matters if your 3602 claims 100,000 pieces mailed, but they were non-identical. This could mean that the mailing was one where several different items were mailed totaling 100,000. Thus, 100,000 of the identical items you though you paid for may not have gone out as planned.
Postage is computed on some complicated formulas as well as how the items to be mailed are prepared and sorted. The designated parts for the calculation of will be checked at the top of this tier. You can see the Parts as they will be attached to an authentic and fully disclosed PS 3602. With each level of sortation the rate is based on the category, automation, non-auto, letter size, flat size, weight, etc. Most mailers will use industry approved presort software to sort and identify each mailing to the finest levels. The statements are then printed out for postal verification.
There are three methods for verification:
Weight Verification – PS physical weighing of each pallet, tray, sack, etc. after 10-piece weight.
Manifest Mailing – Each piece is identified with a number which the PS randomly pulls sampling.
Optional Procedure – PS weighs 10 percent (random) of each mailing. Additionally, mailers are required to maintain samples and records of each mailing and must agree to periodic audits conducted by PS managers.
Certification is done by a person not a company, thus the name in the section for certification must be that of a person. It almost always has full contact information associated with the certification – such as name, address, phone number and now, even email address.
USPS Use Only section is usually filled out poorly, but will have contact information. In the past the Red Round Stamp adorned the form, but now as the USPS is doing more and more work electronically, the Red Round Stamp is not seen so much any more.
There is another form called PS From 8125 – Also know as Plant Verified Drop Shipment “PVDS” form was developed to provide evidence that postage on mailings drop shipped to destination offices was verified and paid for at the origin Post Office. The form also serves to reconcile volume and document load irregularities at destination. The mailers must submit 2 copies of this form along with every mailing dropped off at the USPS for verification. The USPS will verify PVDS mailings for classification, rate eligibility, preparation, volume and presort either at the mailer’s plant or at the origin post office serving that mailers plant. That does not mean that the mailer will dropped off at this post office only that it has been verified by this post office. Once verified the mailing can be dropped off at anyone of a number of locations – often the mailer can combine mail projects to effect the lowest cost for the mailings.
The way one could fiddle with this form is to deliver a mailing for verification of say 100,000 pieces at one post office, and than deliver 110,000 at another post office for mailing. This is where the mailing house is not cheating the advertiser but rather the post office on postage. The USPS takes a very dim view of this practice. Thus, if you have the correct 3602 and a copy of the 8125 and the piece count does not match – e.g. the 3602 shows more pieces mailed as opposed to the 8125 – this may be the case. While this may not hurt the advertiser, initially – the advertiser can be assured that the mailing house might be shut down by the postal inspectors causing a disruption in an advertisers planned campaigns.
Direct mail is a 13 Billion dollar a year industry that touches nearly all of us either as a company that has used direct mail or one receiving a direct mail piece. Like so many other things life, once you know how it works, you can protect yourself against a fraud. So many of the 3602 are being generated by mailing programs and automatically generated pdf documents that PS Form 3602 seems to have lost all relevance. But this would be incorrect, as one learns to read a 3602 and an 8125 one will be better able to spot the missing information and thus will be able to ask all of the right questions, to seek full and transparent answers to insure that they, the advertiser, is getting full and genuine value from their advertising dollars.