Mar 14

How to Identify and Avoid Counterfeit Postage Scams

As you prepare to mail your wedding invitations, beware of fake USPS postage stamps! Recently, phony advertisements for heavily discounted postage have exploded on social media. And as a wedding stationery designer, I feel responsible for warning couples who may go looking for a deal and end up ripped off.

I’ll be the first to say that I wish stamps were cheaper! I know shelling out more money for postage can feel painful when you’ve already put a down payment on a venue, flowers, and gown. However, what’s most important is that your guests receive their invitations. It would be heartbreaking to spend months working with a designer to craft heirloom-quality invitations, only for them not to make it past the post office garbage bin! Find out how to spot and avoid counterfeit postage scams below.

What is Counterfeit Postage?

In response to the recent uptick in these scams, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) guided consumers in identifying counterfeit postage. Often, scammers target online shoppers on platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and eBay, promising deep discounts on Forever Stamps. However, USPIS warns consumers that these posts are rarely legitimate. Accordingly, purchasing from approved vendors ONLY is crucial to avoid getting scammed. These usually include big box retailers and warehouses who may occasionally offer small discounts on postage, but only with the express permission of the Postal Service.

Since the second half of 2021, counterfeit postage scams have proliferated on online shopping platforms. However, the good news is, they aren’t difficult to spot. Typically, scammers advertise Forever Stamps sold in bulk quantities at a deep discount—usually 20 to 50 percent off their face value. There’s no such thing as a “discounted” Forever Stamp, so if you scroll across one of these ads and it seems too good to be true, that’s because it is! The potential to score a good deal might seem worth the risk. But if you want your invitations and save-the-dates to reach your guests, it’s best not to take any chances.

How to avoid counterfeit postage scams on social media


How Does This Affect Consumers?

In response to the increase in these phony advertisements, the USPS recently filed a federal register notice to change the protocol in the Domestic Mail Manual.  Under the new system, which the organization will implement on April 1, 2023, workers will treat any mail containing fraudulent postage as “abandoned.” In other words, the USPS will reserve the right to open and dispose of these items. So, while this is good news for the Postal Service and the effort to dissuade scammers, it’s bad news for couples who may have unknowingly used counterfeit postage to mail their wedding stationery!

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How to Identify a Counterfeit Stamp

This helpful video instructs consumers on how to spot counterfeit Forever Stamps. The US Postal Service website has a few informational videos.

In the past, fake stamps were relatively easy to identify. Their graphic quality was poor, as was the die-cutting along the edges. Genuine stamps, with their sharp edges and fine-resolution graphics, could be easily differentiated from their counterfeit counterparts. The USPS also tagged their products with a signature fluorescent dye so that workers could identify counterfeits underneath a black light.

However, scammers have adapted to this measure by adding fluorescent tags of their own. Likewise, they’ve adapted the graphic quality and trimming on counterfeit stamps to equal the real thing. So, distinguishing between a USPS Forever Stamp and a fake one has become virtually impossible for the average consumer.


How to tell if stamps are counterfeit


How Can You Protect Yourself?

First and foremost, avoid purchasing ANY postage online except through the official USPS Postage Store. Otherwise, head to your local post office for all your postage needs. In addition, be especially vigilant about avoiding false advertisements on social media. If you see postage for sale on Facebook, eBay, or a similar platform—especially in bulk quantities at a significantly discounted price—this is a telltale sign that the ad is bogus.

The USPS now has a search function that lets you search for an “Approved Postal Provider“. This is a great resource! Search under “Contract Postal Unit” or “National Retailer” and there you will find a list of stores where you can purchase real US stamps.

If you have any questions regarding this issue that I haven’t addressed, or if you’ve recently purchased postage online, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I would be happy to help you work through any problems you’re experiencing so your invitations can reach your guests safe and sound.