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USPS May Yank Mail Featuring Fake Postage, Auction the Contents

Warning: USPS Will Yank Mail Featuring Fake Postage

Fake postage stamps have been a problem for years, with reports of them showing up on sites like eBay. And there have been allegations of sellers altering postage labels, such as a pair of Amazon merchants charged with altering Flat Rate postage labels in order to send large household items. Now the US Postal Service is doing something about it – but it’s going to be a “buyer beware” solution.

The USPS is filing notice so it can treat items found in the mail stream bearing counterfeit postage as abandoned.

“Articles found in the mails with counterfeit postage will be considered abandoned and may be opened and disposed of at the Postal Service’s discretion,” the USPS announced on Wednesday.

The USPS is filing a federal register notice about changes to the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®) that will allow it to treat items found in the mail stream bearing counterfeit postage as abandoned.

As it explained:

“Counterfeit postage is any marking or indicia that has been made, printed, or otherwise created without authorization from the Postal Service that is printed or applied, or otherwise affixed, on an article placed in the mails that indicates or represents that valid postage has been paid to mail the article. Consumers purchasing online items may be surprised to find out that the vendor mailed their goods using counterfeit postage. Under the new regulations, such items will be considered abandoned and disposed of at the Postal Service’s discretion. When this occurs, consumers will have to seek recourse from the vendor.”

What’s interesting is that, as it explains on the USPS.com website, the USPS Mail Recover Center may auction off “undeliverable and non-returnable mail” merchandise – but not “abandoned” as we’d first reported. So we asked if selling or auctioning those *abandoned* items would be included as possible methods of disposal? A USPS spokesperson responded, “It would be up to the Inspection Service.”

Clearly the USPS has been challenged in stopping counterfeiters from selling fake postage to (suspecting or unsuspecting) buyers. In August, one such unsuspecting buyer complained eBay did not help them when they tried to return a purchase of postage stamps they suspected were fake after they bought them. (The buyer said they became suspicious when they saw the roll they purchased for $38 started selling for $5.99):

“Bought forever stamps on eBay only later (before using) . I kept checking articles and forums to see why the stamps I purchased starting at 38.00 a roll of 100 was falling all the way down to 5.99 a roll. It was at that time I started to see information that a lot of the forever stamps being sold on eBay are fake.

“So I took some of the rolls to a stamp show to a U.S. stamp dealer who compared it to his stock. He saw enough difference to confirm they were forgeries. Not looking for secret service to come knocking I needed to return. Had about 5 lots to return to different dealers, missed time frame on one now eBay will not allow return or refund of my money. They also did not remove the vendor selling them. Is this fair when eBay guarantees authenticity. Apparently they now support the sale of fake products.”

The public can weigh in on the USPS filing:

“Public comments can be mailed or delivered on or before March 15, 2023, to: Manager, Product Classification, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 4446, Washington, DC 20260-5015. If sending comments by email, include the name and address of the commenter and send to PCFederalRegister@usps.gov, with a subject line of “Counterfeit Postage.” Faxed comments are not accepted. All submitted comments and attachments are part of the public record and subject to disclosure. Do not enclose any material in your comments that you consider to be confidential or inappropriate for public disclosure.”

Updated 2/16/2023 for clarity.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

5 thoughts on “USPS May Yank Mail Featuring Fake Postage, Auction the Contents”

  1. Ebay does not care if you are selling fakes.
    They do care that they get a cut.

    I have reported ebay sellers who sell fake seeds on ebay for years. Seeds such as Blue or Pink Sunflowers – and many, many others. These are seeds for plants that exist nowhere in nature. The Top Selling seeds on Ebay are all Fakes.

    The Sellers usually have pretty good feedback because the feedback is given based on speed of delivery as it takes many months for a seed to grow into the flower that it is supposed to be, so true feedback of the Fake is usually never recorded.

    I have NEVER had Ebay Remove even One of the Scam Sellers I have reported. Ebay will not even Remove the Fake Listing. They really piss me off (for many other reasons too) because they have a policing force that they do not have to pay a dime for, yet they do Nothing!

    I stopped reporting Scam Seller to Ebay a while ago as it is an extreme waste of my time. If a buyer wants to buy Fake Seeds for a Fake Flower that does not Exist – Well, perhaps they deserve to get Scammed.

  2. I see the counterfeit Forever stamps for sale on eBay, Facebook and other venues all the time. What I don’t see in the USPS policy is penalties for venues hosting those sellers. Big fines needed! That will stop it quickly.

  3. All these fakes are criminal activities. If Ebay does nothing after being informed, then they are aiding and abetting a criminal activity and can be criminally charged along with the sellers. As soon as this starts happening Ebay will start doing something about it.

  4. I have to wonder why the USPS is not reporting the counterfeit postage to the VeRO program. They are obviously the “rights owner” for the postage.

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