While several delivery companies are available, most packages are still processed through USPS. With a federally run delivery service, you can expect some oversight when auditing and inspecting packages.
This begs the question, how do you know if USPS will audit your package, and do they audit each package they receive?
Here is everything we learned about your privacy when shipping through USPS:
What to Know About USPS Audits:
USPS package audits and inspections are done entirely at the discretion of the General Post Master at the specific Post Office location you are shipping through. Audits are done to protect your assets as well as the revenue of the Post Office. This is how USPS can maintain delivery integrity.
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What Is The Process for USPS to Audit a Package?
If the General Inspector of the USPS signs off on a package audit, the first thing that will happen is they will notify the sender of the audit.
However, there can be a delay in the notification which means your package may already be audited before you even being notified. An audit will include a complete inspection of the package and the data that comes with it.
Most notably, the General Inspector will carefully examine the package and its contents to determine whether it is safe and legal to deliver.
This is often done with respect so that there won’t be any damage to the contents. If it is found that the contents of the package you are trying to send violate any rules or laws, the second stage of an audit will begin.
Once the contents are inspected and documented, the General Inspector will open a full investigation, starting with an interview process. The inspector will interview the sender as well as the recipient.
If the package contents are highly dangerous, other people connected to the sender can also expect to be interviewed.
However, this must be done while still respecting due process and the sender’s individual rights. To interview and investigate, the inspector must legally obtain a subpoena to do a full investigation.
Because USPS is a federally-run organization, if a crime is found, it will be considered a federal offense, making it a far more serious charge.
So, if the General Inspector of USPS finds enough evidence to proceed with an arrest, serious consequences will be. If no basis for a crime has been discovered, no further action will be taken.
How Often Does USPS Audit Packages?
Several different factors go into how many audits USPS performs every year.
The first thing to note is that federal employees of USPS have the right to open and inspect any package at any time if they suspect something suspicious with the package.
Based on this, USPS does thousands of audits each year. While many of these audits and investigations do not move forward, at least a hundred serious audits are done each year.
However, audits are only sometimes routinely done depending on how busy that particular post office is. The busier the post office, the less likely the package will be audited.
This is because each post office depends on certain types of scanning processes for each package. The busier post offices tend to rely heavily on the scanning process, so they can only partially audit a delivery.
However, smaller post offices have more time on their hands to truly inspect each package which helps to explain why post offices in smaller communities tend to have higher auditing rates.
The post office is not in the habit of randomly opening, auditing, and inspecting packages. They have to have evidence to start an audit. So, you can handle every package you deliver being opened and sorted through.
What Triggers a USPS Audit Of A Package?
As mentioned, USPS does not randomly start opening packages looking for illegal things.
There must be some sign that the package may be breaking the rules for them to start an audit. What exactly might trigger an audit done by USPS?
The first thing the Post Master will check is the weight of the package. Depending on the size of the box you are shipping, the weight may set off alarm bells which can trigger an audit, especially if you are shipping a small box with an unusually high weight.
The same can be said for a large box with a very low weight.
The second thing a Post Master will look for is how the package was sealed. Most times, people seal the packages they send with some packaging tape along the seams and seals of a box.
Packages with excessive tape or completely wrapped up will trigger an audit. This is because people smuggling items tend to wrap up packages tightly to pass through a scanning process and pass through K9 units trained to sniff out illegal items.
Another thing that will tip off the Post Master is if the package’s labeling is incorrect. The address labeled does not match the address on the printout.
While this can easily be a mistake, it can also be a clue that something fraudulent is going on.
The same can be said for any information visible on the package, as well as the shipping label. If there is one thing that doesn’t match, the General Inspector will be alerted.
The last reason USPS may audit a package is if it has a strong odor, leaks, or has some powder substance. Anything that may be considered a dangerous substance found on the package will open a complete investigation.
This is one of the reasons why USPS asks if there are any liquids or powders in your package before you ship them. You must sign off on this when you drop a package.
While this is the most common reason for an audit, it is also the most severe. This is because the Post Office has steps put in place to protect their workers as well as the community.
So, if there is a leaking package or a strange order, the Post Master must contact the authorities.
What Are The Consequences of a Failed USPS Audit?
We’ve discussed what to expect from a USPS audit and what could trigger an investigation, but what happens if the audit fails?
As mentioned, USPS is a federal company that the government runs, so a failed audit would have fairly large consequences. The crimes that the General Inspector of the USPS can investigate are mail fraud and identity theft.
However, the most prosecuted crimes done by the USPS are sending and receiving packages that are against the law. The consequence of this depends on the severity of the crime.
Sending hazardous materials through USPS comes with a civil fine; depending on the severity of the materials shipped, it may also come with jail time.
The civil fine for shipping hazardous materials through USPS can range from $450 up to $75,000.
Shipping illegal substances like drugs and alcohol through USPS has a much heavier punishment that includes a civil fine and a hefty jail sentence.
Using USPS to transport drugs comes with an automatic 10-year jail sentence and fines that could reach as high as 1 million dollars.
Can Shippers Appeal a Failed USPS Audit?
If you have failed a USPS package audit, you can take a few steps to appeal the decision.
If the criminal activity were found, you would be able to defend yourself in a trial. All criminal cases will have to go through a trial since citizens have the right to defend themselves fully.
If the audit revealed that there was just a violation and nothing criminal was done, you could appeal the ruling to avoid paying a civil fine.
This is done by submitting an official appeal to the USPS General Inspector. However, the outcome is still at the discretion of the General Inspector, who was the one to first order the violation. So, most times, appeals don’t get a second life.
However, there is one final move you can make if you find that a failed USPS audit needs to be done correctly.
This is to request an official judicial review. Again, this request has to be made directly to the USPS General Inspector.
This request is made to have an independent review panel reconsider your judgment. This takes some of the power out of the hands of the General Inspector.
The ruling done by a judicial review will be considered final since it is the last step in appealing a USPS audit ruling.