Why Do Packages Get Flagged? 5 Most Common Reasons

When a package is flagged, it can experience delays during transit as it is held for investigation.

The sender or recipient may face significant fines or penalties, possibly even leading to a court trial.

In extreme cases, jail time may be imposed. The package may not reach its destination and could be destroyed.

Here are 5 common reasons for a package to be flagged:

A Package Can Get Flagged if it Lacks Proper Documentation

Some packages need some sort of documentation for them to be shipped.

This is very common for packages that are shipped to international countries. In the case of domestic shipments, documentation may be required if the package contains some restricted items.

Here are some documents that need to be submitted during shipping:

  • Invoices
  • Product codes
  • Trade licenses
  • Item description
  • Shipment documents

If certain documents are needed for the package to be shipped, then the sender must comply and submit them.

Otherwise, the package may be flagged and held at a customs facility.

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A Package Can Get Flagged if it is Not Properly Declared

You must declare the items properly when shipping a package to an international destination.

Else it may get flagged.

Declaring a package means properly including all the details about it. All descriptions should be included in the declaration.

The value of the item, brand, model numbers, and serial numbers, whenever applicable, should all be included in the product information. Incomplete details may cause the package to get flagged.

When shipping multiple items in one package, you should list each item down and put their corresponding descriptions.

When shipping more than one piece of an item, you should also properly declare the quantity.

If your package has not been properly declared and the customs officer feels something is off, it will be flagged.

They would also inspect your package by scanning it through an x-ray machine.

Sometimes, they would also open your package to check its contents and see if it matches what’s indicated in the package description.

A Package Can be Flagged if Proper Duties and Taxes are Not Paid

When shipping a package overseas, its value has to be declared properly so that correct duties and taxes will be applied.

The package can get flagged if duties and taxes have not been properly applied or the sender did not pay enough to cover these fees. 

This is actually very common, and in many cases, it is not done intentionally. It happens when the sender is unaware of the import fees in the destination country, so the burden of the fees will be on the recipient.

Packages with incorrectly paid or unpaid duties and taxes will be flagged and held at customs.

If this happens, you will find out when you check the tracking information. It should show that the package is being held at a customs facility.

This is quite an easy situation, though.

If your package gets flagged and held up at a customs facility, you can still retrieve it. You just have to pay the proper duties and taxes so that it will clear customs.

Even if the package is a gift, you may still have to pay for import duties depending on your country’s import policies.

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A Package Can Get Flagged if it Comes from a Country with Known Problems

There are some countries in which the U.S. has strict import and export regulations when dealing with them. These countries are called embargoed countries.

These countries are considered high-risk territories because they are known for importing and exporting goods that may be used for illegal activities.

Packages going to or coming from these countries usually get flagged and are often subject to a thorough investigation.

Here is the list of high-risk countries for import and export:

  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Syria
  • Crimea Region of Ukraine
  • Belarus
  • Eritrea
  • Venezuela
  • Burma
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Congo
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • People’s Republic of China
  • Somalia

In some cases, companies and individuals may still transact with these countries and trade goods as long as they have the proper licenses and documentation.

A Package Can Get Flagged if it Seems Suspicious

This is the most common reason why packages get flagged by customs or law enforcement.

If the package appears to contain an item that is either prohibited or restricted and without the necessary paperwork, then it will be flagged.

These packages would then have to go through rigorous inspection and investigation. In most cases, they will be opened.

The worst-case scenario is that these packages will be seized and detained by law enforcement, and the sender or receiver or both of them would have to face the consequences, which could include hefty fines and even jail time.

Here is a list of items that commonly get flagged during shipping:

  • Automobiles – While these are not prohibited, certain conditions must be met before shipping, such as fuel-emission requirements and safety standards.
  • Biologicals – This includes fungi, mollusks, arthropods, bacterial cultures, viruses, birds, plants, excretions, and livestock tissues, for research or pharmaceutical use. They can be shipped but with the necessary paperwork.
  • Ceramics – These are not restricted or prohibited, but they may contain harmful amounts of lead, which can get into food and beverage items. Before shipping ceramics, make sure to test for lead content.
  • Cultural Artifacts – These are restricted items that may require some paperwork so they can be shipped.
  • Defense Items – They may be restricted in some countries, and licenses are required to ship them. In some countries, they’re considered prohibited items.
  • Drug Paraphernalia – These are strictly prohibited as they are considered illegal items.
  • Food Products – These items are restricted depending on the way they are prepared and packed.
  • Gold – Be it in coins, medals, and bullion forms, gold is a prohibited item.
  • Intoxicating Beverages – These items are restricted and can only be shipped by businesses that own a license to sell them.
  • Medication – These are restricted items that require a prescription before they can be shipped.
  • Merchandise from High-Risk Countries – As mentioned previously, any items from the countries in the list above may be flagged.
  • Soil – Shipping soil is prohibited unless it comes with an import permit.
  • Texting and Clothing Items – These items are technically not restricted, but there is a limit to how many you can ship. If you exceed the limit, then import duties have to be paid.

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What Happens When Your Package Gets Flagged?

When your package gets flagged, either by customs or law enforcement, it may be detained for further investigation, depending on the reason why it was flagged.

If customs flagged your package because import dauties and taxes have not been paid, then you only have to pay these fees so that your package will clear customs.

It would be inspected if your package was flagged because it was suspected to contain restricted or prohibited items. It may be opened by law enforcement, and if the package is found to comply with the law, it will be re-packed and cleared for shipping to its destination.

On the other hand, if your package is found to have broken some laws because it contained something illegal, then it will be detained, and you will be informed.

If the package was shipped through the U.S. Postal Service, the tracking information would show that your package has been seized by law enforcement.

If the package was shipped through other carriers like UPS or FedEx, they will simply notify you through email that there has been a problem with your package and that you would have to get in touch with customs.

From there, you would have to go through legal proceedings to clear your name.

In some cases, you would have to pay some fines or penalties. If you don’t agree to settle, you would have to go to trial, and the worst-case scenario is that you would have to face some jail time.

To prevent your package from getting flagged, check the list of prohibited and restricted items.

Remember to complete all the paperwork needed for shipping and declare the item value correctly so that the proper import fees and taxes are applied.

Sources:

Prevent Packages From Getting Flagged And Intercepted

Prohibited And Restricted Items

Your Shipment Is Flagged For A Customs Exam… Don’t Panic

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