Consumer Alert: Fake stamp scammers advertising on Google? How to tell if your stamps are real

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This consumer alert concerns your mail, your money, and fake stamps. Last week, the postal service issued a warning about fake stamps and a new policy to deal with it. So I’m again investigating fake stamps so you know when you’re buying the real thing.

I found stamps being peddled in an unlikely place. They were at the top of my Google search results.  You may remember two weeks ago, I warned that you need to use care when clicking on an ad. They usually appear first in your google search results and are identified with the word ad.

When I searched the phrase, “stamps for sale cheap,” at the top of my search results were all ads, and nearly all were selling ads for suspiciously low prices. One example is where 100 stamps that should sell for $58 bucks are going for $24.99. 

The USPS says that if the discount is deep, the stamps are likely bogus. 

One look at the’s return policy tells the tale. It says it accepts returns but gives no address, instead it’s obvious they simply copied a policy template because it says, “physical address.” The owners of the site even left the sentence, “This is a sample page” at the top of its refund policy page.

I also noted awkward sentence structure on the “about us” page. The writer misuses the articles, a and the.  While the use of definite and indefinite articles isn’t unique to English, they aren’t commonly used in many languages. Therefore, foreign speakers often misuse them.

So, I looked up the website’s registration data. The company, Namecheap Inc., is located in Reykjavic, the capitol of Iceland. The USPS says most fake stamps come from overseas.

I reported the ad to Google by clicking on the three dots appearing to the right of the ad. Four days later, the ad and its site selling suspicious stamps were still there. After I notified Google’s media team, the company removed the ad for As of Wednesday evening, the website was still up. The media team wrote, “We have strict ads policies that govern the types of ads and advertisers we allow on our platforms. We are reviewing the ads in question and will take appropriate action.”

They went on to say Google is now in the process of asking businesses in 240 countries to verify their ads, and if they fail to do so, Google will take down the ad. But clearly, Google is playing a game of whack-a-mole. I found half a dozen websites placing ads for stamps that are very likely fake. I investigated fake stamps in a series of reports two years ago. While the sites I found then are now gone, there are many more taking their place.

I also reached out to The email address for the business listed on the site, was not a working email address on Wednesday. So I left a message on the website. As of Wednesday evening, I hadn’t received a response.

The USPS is in the process of establishing a new policy allowing it to open or throw away any mail sent with fake stamps.

So clearly the onus is on us, as consumers, to make sure the stamps we buy are the real thing. Google provided more information:

About our Ads Policies: 

  • We don’t allow advertisers to run ads that “scam users by concealing or mistaking information about the advertiser’s business, product or service.” (Misrepresentation Policy)
  • We don’t go into specifics of our enforcement systems, as bad actors will often utilize this information to undermine our efforts and evade enforcement. We use a combination of human reviews and automated systems to enforce our policies and we are constantly monitoring our network for abuse. 
    • To provide a sense of the scale of our enforcement efforts in 2021, we removed over 3.4 billion ads, restricted over 5.7 billion ads and suspended over 5.6 million advertiser accounts. 
      • In our ads safety report, we segment this figure. For example, In 2021, we blocked or removed 38.1 million advertisements for violating our Misrepresentation Policy.
    • We take a multi-pronged approach to combat bad behavior, like verifying advertisers’ identities and identifying coordinated activity between accounts using signals in our network. 

About Verification: 

  • In 2020, we introduced an advertiser identity verification program that requires Google advertisers to verify information about their businesses, where they operate from and what they’re selling or promoting. Providing this transparency helps users learn more about the company behind a specific ad and also helps differentiate credible advertisers in the ecosystem while limiting the ability of bad actors to misrepresent themselves. This information is available to viewers via our My Ads Center feature.
    • Today, we are actively verifying advertisers in over 240 countries and regions. And if an advertiser fails to complete our verification program when prompted, the account is automatically restricted.
    • If a user believes an ad violates our policies, they can report the ad via a link in the About this Ad feature.
    • In 2022, we launched Advertiser Pages globally to give users additional transparency about our ads. These pages allow users to view other ads that verified advertisers are running.