Fake US Postage Stamps

In the US it’s hard to miss the ads and websites for “discount” postage stamps - usually lots of 100 minimum new stamps offered for roughly 50% of face value. You can check these sites and they all claim to be authorized by the USPS.

My question: if these are truly fake stamps being sold as.the real thing, why doesn’t the enforcement arm of the USPS take them to court and shut them down? They have physical street addresses, web pages, etc. If nothing else, I would think they could be charged with false advertising by claiming that they are “real” stamps.

Are there any articles/publications on this? Have buyers had their mail returned for using a “fake” Forever stamp on their cable bill payment?

Thanks. (I’m sure this must have been discussed somewhere, sometime, but I can’t find it…)

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I guess it’s too expensive to take them to court. USPS now treats those mailing items with counterfeit postage as abandoned. Official release here: USPS Warns the Public About Surge In Use of Counterfeit Postage - Newsroom - About.usps.com

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Making counterfeit stamps is a criminal act making billions a year around the world & costing us - the users of our postal systems more money as a result.

I suspect postal systems only have so much money to spend on fraud prevention/prosecution & it may be so widespread & sophisticated it’s hard to shut down.

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How do you know they are counterfeit? I just watched a video on YouTube on how to spot them but left me with more doubt than assurances.they say it’s really hard even for the postal service to know if stamps are real or not.
Guess we should only buy stamps directly from the post office to avoid contributing to counterfeit.
I have bought stamps from Etsy but not even “discounted” but after this video made me wonder :thinking: I will be buying only from the post office.

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I will give you some observations after decades as a buyer and seller of stamp-related material. It continues to baffle me why warning bells don’t go off when people see these phony ads/offers. I regularly buy older postage from legitimate dealers - not these hucksters you see online. If you wish to buy older postage @ face value and aren’t too picky, you can buy it at 80% of face value. A 50% discount?

If someone was offering Gucci handbags, Mont Blanc pens, etc dirt cheap you would think of knock-offs at once. Unfortunately, the same scrutiny goes out the window when it comes to bogus postage.

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Yeah, I agree with cliffside here. I’ve bought countless packets of discount postage on eBay. They’re usually marketed as “hoards” from estate sales or something along those lines, usually very small value / denominated stamps, like 3c - 29c. It’s something nice to dress up your envelope with. Those are usually legitimate. Something like this from an ASDA dealer is legit. (link to an example of a legitimate eBay stamp seller that I’ve bought from.) But I would never buy forever stamps / global forever stamps at a discount; those are probably all counterfeits.

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These counterfits are made overseas and reshipped into the States or can come from overseas when you order.

Red flags are big big discounts that seem to good to be true. Common designs for counterfeit are the American flags. It is not illegal to resell stamps because my shipping store resells USPS stamps for a markup either individually or as a sheet or boom. But it is illegal to sell counterfeits as valid postage.

Consider going to stamp shows in your local area. Seek out dealers that sell mint stamps at face value for mailings. Usually in bins, they sell authentic old gummed stamps. Any Forever or non denominated stamps are sold for the current post office rate. At a stamp show you often find old design you might not have known. Ebay does have discounted stamps but the discount is very small but something is something.

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The USPS is unable to do much about it because it’s hard to prove that the stamps are fake until you actually get them. Stamp dealers have been selling stamps in bulk for less than face value for a long time, stamp dealers sell to collectors and the stamps sold at or below face value are usually because they are very common stamps that aren’t worth much more than face value and the dealer just needs to get them sold to generate revenue and make room for new inventory. Other people run legitimate business operations buying stamps in bulk to earn large amounts of credit card points or cashback or even collect on introductory credit card offers, and then resell the stamps at or slightly below face value to recoup their cost, and then their profit is made through the bonuses they get from manufactured spend. All of this is to say that just because stamps are sold below face value doesn’t mean they’re counterfeit. However, after purchasing stamps it is fairly easy to determine whether they’re fake or not if you’ve been a stamp collector for a while, but the fake stamps can be similar enough to the real ones to fool anyone who doesn’t look very closely or pull out a magnifying glass.
USPS machines detect the phosphor tagging on the stamp in order to locate the stamp on the envelope and apply a postmark, so if the counterfeiters add phosphor to the fake stamps it will already fool the machines, and unless a postal employee looks at the stamp closely it will most likely fool them as well. I’ve spoken with many other collectors who have located fake stamps on mail and when purchasing them online and found that they usually have different paper, less clean perforations, and printing that is not as crisp when compared to the real versions of the stamps.

So what does the USPS do about it? There’s unfortunately not a whole lot that can be done to stop it. They can request that the USPS Postal Inspectors or FBI investigate it and shut down the websites where these fake stamps are being sold, but as soon as one website is closed down, another can be easily built and online quickly. These stamps are most often being produced overseas and imported to the United States in the same process that legitimate products are being imported. The US Customs officers inspect a lot of the cargo entering the country and find tons of counterfeit products every year, which are all confiscated and destroyed, and I would assume that they’ve found counterfeit postage stamps as well. The reality is that there are far too many goods imported into the US every day for customs to inspect every item, and as a result of that, fake stamps enter the country the same way that fake shoes, handbags, watches, medications, cosmetics, and consumer electronics do.

So how do the counterfeiters ship it to customers with real street addresses, etc? Most commonly they use a freight forwarder. Freight forwarding services are common for orders of imported goods, sellers pack individual orders up and ship them all together (think a full truckload of various products) to the US. That full truckload travels all together to the US and is unloaded at a port. Once they arrive here, a company will scan each package and apply a USPS shipping label to each of them to deliver within the country. The forwarding companies don’t know what’s in each package, they just know that the items were ordered online and have people to get delivered to.
Additionally, a lot of times when people are running shady businesses like this they’ll put down fake addresses for return addresses, etc. Or other times, they’ll put down legitimate addresses that belong to a random business, like a grocery store or a pizza shop.

The USPS recently announced that mail bearing counterfeit postage will be treated as abandoned, but I’m curious to see how they expect to actually implement this. I’m sure there are some people who are using fake stamps to defraud the USPS, but I think that the vast majority of people using fake stamps to send mail don’t even know that they’re fake because they’ve been deceived by criminals posing as sellers of legitimate stamps. And then in addition to that, if the stamps are tricking USPS machines it’s even harder to do anything about it.

Bottom line- Customers are being deceived into purchasing counterfeit stamps, there are several crimes that people producing the fake stamps should get charged with, but sadly, there is very little that the USPS can actually do about it.

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The left is counterfeit

The right is authentic (zoom in and you can really tell)

I loved the frozen treats stamps and wanted more so bought a sheet on eBay for face value not thinking anything of it. They arrived and did not smell since they are supposed to be scratch and sniff. When I contacted the seller they said it’s because they were older stamps. Issued in 2017. So instead of keeping them for my collection I figured I would use them. Well I’ve used half the sheet now and so far alot of the mail has been received. I’m hoping if someone is expecting something from me and it never arrived they contact me so I can send a replacement. Anywho I started wondering again tonight something felt off about these. I have handled so many legitimate stamps and these just seemed a bit more flimsy. So low and behold I examined them again more close next to the real ones and it’s obvious and I feel dumb I didn’t notice right away :expressionless::expressionless::expressionless: when you take a photo and zoom in it becomes really obvious how the print is poor quality. Also the micro print where it says 2018 is not as crisp and in a slightly different spot on the stamp. As I mentioned before the stamps are more flimsy and not as thick when compared to the original. So yea I am pissed to say the least mostly because I would feel really bad if my mail doesn’t get received. Oh and when I went back earlier to contact the seller again they are no longer on eBay. There are definitely legit sellers of stamps on eBay and I’m not deterred from buying again but I will be much more careful next time.

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That should have been your clue for them not being legitimate. If they are dated 2018, they can’t be from 2017 …

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to that answer, i must tell you that the year printed on the booklet or pane of the stamps, they can be printed a year earlier. i had bought some some (before the pandemic) and was puzzled by the year when it was printed, as the year earlier. i wish i could remember that stamps. the year is when the stamp was printed, not issued.

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@sannah82
The authentic ones have the same date printed so no that wasn’t a sign they were fake :roll_eyes: also if you read my post you would of seen I posted a side by side comparison of both the authentic and fake ones. Both of which have the same date. most people can’t tell counterfeits unless they are avid stamp collectors. I had never had any before so I didn’t know what to look out for. It wasn’t until I did more research I was able to tell. The first sign of them being fake was the lack of scratch and sniff smell. I contacted the seller and they gave the excuse of them being old so the scent was gone. I sort of believed it but also still thought it was weird because the authentic ones I had still smelled. Either way it was an honest mistake on my part and I can correctly identify fake stamps now because of this experience.

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That makes absolutely no sense to me … But that wouldn’t be the first time regarding USPS business.
Thanks, I learned something new.

So true. I was reading the comments in one of the Facebook ads for these counterfeit stamps. One of the commenters said she thought they were available because of overstock. So in other words, she thought the USPS printed too many stamps and then sold the ones they could not sell through normal channels. I guess she thinks if the US govt printed too much currency, they would make twenty dollar bills available to dealers for ten dollars!

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It’s not just stamps. Even shipping labels are getting the counterfeit treatment. I bought some older stamps on eBay from what looked like a reputable dealer. But I definitely got scammed.

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Uggh. I wish i had seen this thread a week ago.

Today I took my discounted stamps to the post office for inspection. I was fully prepared to surrender them. The agent looked them over and said she wasn’t sure if they were counterfeit. I asked her 2 questions,

  1. If I use them will someone show up at my door. - No.
  2. If I use them will my mail be delivered? - Most likely, the stamps probably won’t even be noticed and if they are then the mail would be discarded.

Now I had my concerns about this agent because when we were talking about what I should look for on a legitimate stamp she said, “you will know it’s a real stamp because the FOREVER is crossed out.” She showed me a magnet promoting this stamp and said, “see it’s crossed out?”
peter-making-a-snow-angel-2017-united-states-postage-stamp-the-snowy-day

I tried to explain to her she had it wrong and that stamp images have that cross out to identify them as not legitimate stamps. She wouldn’t hear it.

I feel stupid and dumb having fallen for a scam. I’m still dealing with my bank. I will never buy stamps from anyone other than USPS.

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You’re right about the “forever” being crossed out. Weird the agent had it wrong.

I’ve bought many legitimate stamps from eBay before. I look for sellers who are members of the ASDA and have thousands of reviews. I believe the scammers have few reviews and aren’t ASDA members. And they sometimes may have a location other than the US. All of those are red flags for me. So I hope this experience doesn’t deter you.

If you don’t mind sharing, can you describe the seller or listing, so that we can learn what to look out for?

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I recently bought stamps on Groupon at a huge discount and then realized they were probably fakes.

I contacted Groupon and they refunded my money but refused to address the question of if their stamps were fakes.

Then I contacted the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) at https://uspis.gov/ , who is in charge of dealing with fake stamps. USPIS emailed me the following:

Thank you for your report! I have provided it to one of our analysts for investigation. Please take the stamps to your local post office, inform them you have been in contact with the USPIS, and that you were instructed to give the stamps to them to send to their local inspection service. Please also provide the packaging, if you still have it.

When buying stamps online, it is good to keep the following in mind:

1. USPS does not sell stamps below face value. Stamps can be bought online from USPS here: Stamps, Mailing Supplies & Collectibles | USPS

2. Legitimate retailers do sometimes provide very small discounts on postal stamps. This is through agreements with USPS. A list of approved postage providers can be found here: https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-an-Approved-Postal-Provider

3. Counterfeit stamps are being sold on social media, eCommerce sites through third-party vendors, and websites.

Stamps being sold at a substantial discount or from a vendor outside of the United States means that the stamps are more than likely counterfeit. To ensure your mail is delivered, do not use stamps bought from unapproved vendors. The use of counterfeit stamps can result in action by the US Postal Inspection Service. For more information on counterfeit stamps, please visit our website: Counterfeit Stamps – United States Postal Inspection Service

To protect our anticounterfeiting measures, we do not tell customers whether the stamps they provided were confirmed as counterfeit. However, I can tell you that stamps being sold at a discount from unauthorized postage providers are more than likely counterfeit.

If you have not already, you should reach out to Groupon and/or your payment method provider, explain the situation, and inform them that you turned the contraband over to law enforcement in order to try to get your money back.

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I have purchased from this website,

https://mailstamponline.shop/collections/shoes?map_id=858512

I’m so embarrassed and feel dumb.

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