There’s been an alarming rise in Made-in-China counterfeit postage stamps here in America.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been struggling for years, saddled with an outmoded business model and huge retiree pension liabilities. And now, added to its inflationary and management woes comes a new threat: counterfeit stamps from China marketed online through paid ads on Google and Facebook, among other platforms.
Counterfeiting currency, bonds, or other government paper of value is a form of warfare. The British printed Continental paper dollars to undermine the American economy during the Revolutionary War. The Union encouraged counterfeiting against the Confederacy during the Civil War. And North Korea has been known for passing fake $100 Federal Reserve notes (Supernotes).
To that record of profitable fakery we can add a new entry: Made in China USPS Forever stamps, sold for as little as 7.7 cents each—88% off the official price of $0.63 each. And, better yet, one printer even boasts of featuring anti-counterfeiting detection ink that looks like official postage under ultra-violet light.
The rapid increase in the use of counterfeit stamps prompted the USPS to issue a statement last February noting “…a surge in the use of counterfeit postage…” with its use or sale “…a crime because it seeks to obtain services without payment.”
The Postal Service went on to announce its intention to revise its regulations on the handling of mail and packages found to be using counterfeit postage, suggesting that such mail would be considered abandoned and subject to opening and destruction. The new policy went into effect on July 9.
This policy puts the Postal Service in a difficult position. Already under public suspicion for not delivering the mail reliably, now, some people who bought bogus stamps from unscrupulous retailers will wonder why their checks never reached the credit card company or the doctor’s office, ignorant of the fact that the USPS destroyed their letters bearing counterfeit stamps.
The Postal Service generated $78.5 billion in revenue in 2022, with the bulk of that coming from First-Class Mail—the sort of mail most likely to be affected by counterfeit stamps. And, even with revenue up $1.5 billion last year, the Postal Service’s losses increased by $2 billion, with labor costs up $1.4 billion and highway, fuel, and overhead expenses up another $2 billion.
Spending 10 seconds googling “Forever stamp roll 100” yields dozens of bogus stamp offers among the sponsored search results—sponsored because the vendor paid Google for the premium placement on its search engine. These sponsored ads can appear just above the Postal Service’s own sponsored online ads.
The Chinese supplier who claimed the special anti-counterfeiting ink had a particularly good deal: 110 rolls of 100 stamps each for $848.10 along with free shipping (I wonder if they use their own counterfeit stamps for the postage). Paying for legitimate postage would set you back $6,930—and the USPS needs every penny to offset their mounting losses.
Just last year, the United States Postal Service which is supposed to be self-supporting, received a $50 billion bailout over the next decade from Congress. This was on top of a $10 billion federal loan that was forgiven by Congress, $3 billion more for electric vehicles, and losses of $90 billion over the past 16 years.
Of course, part of the Postal Service’s problem is an outmoded business model—why even buy cheap counterfeit stamps when you can pay your bills online or send a text instead of a letter?
And China isn’t just manufacturing fake postage stamps, it’s also ripping off intellectual property of all types, from drugs to clothing—and even shipping in enough deadly fentanyl to kill 107,000 Americans last year. It’s as if China considered itself at war with America—especially when considering that fact that nothing happens there without the knowledge and approval of the Chinese Communist Party.
California Republican Rep. Michelle Park Steel, a member of the House Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said, “Counterfeit stamps flooding the market from the CCP are detrimental to both Americans and our Postal Service. This issue has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in fraudulent services and cause unsuspecting Americans to unknowingly commit a federal crime. I urge everyone to ensure they buy stamps from a verified, legitimate seller to avoid being scammed. I am investigating this issue to see how Congress can crack down on counterfeit postage.”
In response to an inquiry about the online ads promoting counterfeit stamps, a Google spokesperson said, “We have strict ads policies that govern the types of ads and advertisers we allow on our platforms and we explicitly prohibit ads that scam users by concealing or misstating information about the advertiser’s products. We have reviewed the ads in question and removed those that violated our policies.
Unfortunately, dozens of ads for counterfeit stamps were still prominently displayed on Google’s search results after the firm claimed they took action to remove the offending ads. This suggests that the problem won’t easily be solved short of vigorous action by the Biden administration to defend U.S. interests, such as the levying of financial penalties on China’s exports to America.