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How should I report misuse of the Great Seal?
January 24, 2012 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I received some junk mail designed to look like a tax form, and featuring the Great Seal of the United States, which is a crime. How should I report this, to best ensure the guilty are punished?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 to Law & Government (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would say you should go to the postal inspector. Ask at your local US Post Office to find out how to contact him.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:53 AM on January 24, 2012


You can file a complaint with the USPS here and with the FTC here.
posted by valkyryn at 10:57 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]




Sorry, not help resolving, but we had this conversation in my office earlier today for the same exact thing. Just curious, where are you (I'm in Dallas) and was it for a car dealership?
posted by doorsfan at 11:06 AM on January 24, 2012


It was a car dealership, but not in Texas. Maybe the ads are being outsourced to someone.

This is a paper mailing, so I don't think it counts as electronic crime.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:08 AM on January 24, 2012


Looks like misuse of the Great Seal is a federal crime, so maybe the FBI?
posted by dubold at 11:27 AM on January 24, 2012


Here is the submission form to send a tip to the FBI.
posted by *s at 11:29 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nthing that I'd call the FBI, at least for a referral to the proper federal police agency if it isn't them.
posted by bearwife at 11:46 AM on January 24, 2012


a referral to the proper federal police agency

You aren't likely to get that out of the FBI.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:02 PM on January 24, 2012


At the very least, even if the FBI isn't the proper party, they'd probably know who is.

I think the FBI is your best bet, though -- that's who my office contacted when we got a Nigerian 419-type scam letter on paper back in the day. We ended up forwarding it to someone in an FBI Fraud department and that was that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on January 24, 2012


There are companies that run the same direct marketing campaigns for car dealers across the country. Dealers buy into the campaigns, the direct mail company groups everything together to gain economies of scale and lower costs. Repeat every six weeks...

The dealers likely have no idea, they just bought a concept called "Presidents Day Tent Sale." or whatever.

I'd call your local post inspector first.
posted by COD at 12:21 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to push back hard at all, but are you sure it's a criminally similar likeness of the Great Seal, rather than just an approximation?

Consumer Reports, in their "Selling It" feature, pretty regularly prints photographs of this type of promotion. It's clearly deceptive, but it may not actually be illegal unless it's indistinguishable from official government documents.
posted by dhartung at 1:32 PM on January 25, 2012


dhartung, it's identical to the Great Seal. However, there is some small print saying "This is not a government document". I don't know if that gets them off the hook or not.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:49 AM on January 26, 2012


I got annoyed one day at work after receiving yet another subscription solicitation disguised as a bill and spent a few minutes preparing a pre-canned response. Now when something like that arrives, I forward the original to the USPS Postal Inspector along with a completed PS Form 8165 Mail Fraud Report. Before sending the original on, I make a copy of it which I return to the sender along with a printout of 39 USC 3001, which discusses "non-mailable matter". On the printout (which I've saved as a PDF for easy reuse) I've highlighted the applicable subsection (3001.d.2) and I added a box containing this text:
Note: A U.S. Postal Inspection Service Mail Fraud Report (PS Form 8165) has been submitted to the USPS Criminal Investigations Service Center reporting your mailing as deceptive and possibly unlawful.
Looking at 39 USC 3001, I think the mailing you're dealing with falls under subsections h.2.a and h.2.b. It sounds like it violates the requirement that
(A) such matter bears on its face, in conspicuous and legible type in contrast by typography, layout, or color with other printing on its face, in accordance with regulations which the Postal Service shall prescribe, the following notice: “THIS PRODUCT OR SERVICE HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED OR ENDORSED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, AND THIS OFFER IS NOT BEING MADE BY AN AGENCY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.”, or a notice to the same effect in words which the Postal Service may prescribe;
(B) the envelope or outside cover or wrapper in which such matter is mailed bears on its face in capital letters and in conspicuous and legible type, in accordance with regulations which the Postal Service shall prescribe, the following notice: “THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT.”, or a notice to the same effect in words which the Postal Service may prescribe
[emphasis added]
I don't know whether it makes any difference, but at least I feel like I'm doing something more productive than fuming as I toss it in the recycling bin.
posted by Lexica at 3:10 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


An update to my previous comment: today's mail delivery included a postcard from the US Postal Inspection Service saying that they'd received my complaint and have entered the information I provided into the national Fraud Complaint System. More follow-up than I expected!
posted by Lexica at 3:37 PM on May 16, 2012


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