Mail Fraud And You: Know The Law

I do a lot of international business online. A LOT. Every now and then, an overseas customer comes along and asks me to forge an invoice to save him a few bucks in duty taxes. While this hasn’t happened as much as it used to a few years ago, it still happens. Maybe they don’t know any better, but it still makes my head spin.

While it may be true that this is not often prosecuted, it’s still mail fraud. I like running a legitimate business, and not having to worry about being investigated for federal crimes. It’s a bit upsetting to know that so many online merchants actually do this to please the customer, but at least I know I’m doing the right thing.

I like this store’s customs declaration policy:

We CANNOT declare the value of the parcel contents on the Customs form as less than the actual item value for two reasons:

1.) It is illegal.

2.) The parcel is insured for the value declared. This means that if your parcel got lost we could only reimburse you for the amount declared on the Customs form. Example: if your item was valued at $100 and we declared it as worth $20, we could only give you a $20 refund since that is the amount Canada Post will reimburse (theoretically, if we refunded you the full $100 and only got $20 back from Canada Post, we would be paying Canada Post $80 for inconveniencing both of us). We would much rather declare the full amount so your purchase is covered!

The fact that other businesses may lie to Customs for you does not concern us (we will not “jump off a bridge” because another store did). It is not a fair and legal business practice.

eBay has been forced to take an aggressive stance against mail fraud as well:

Postal administrations in several international countries have contacted the United States Postal Service about the declaration of value placed on customs forms. They have noted that in many cases, the declared value is understated when compared to the actual invoice or known value of the item, especially for sales conducted over the internet.

While this applies to sellers both on and off eBay, the USPS has asked us to remind our sellers to declare the proper value on all customs forms.

The correct value of each item is required on customs forms as it helps determine the proper duties and taxes, and whether they should be applied. Some countries will soon begin taking steps to address this issue, such as levying fines on the addressee when the declared value is
determined to be lower than the invoice.

To make sure you’re complying with international regulations, please make sure the stated value on your customs declaration is supported by your invoices or other documentation.