Unmasking Customs Fraud: Leveraging the False Claims Act for Justice

November 17, 2023
Unmasking Customs Fraud: Leveraging the False Claims Act for Justice

Customs fraud remains a pervasive issue in the United States, posing a significant threat to businesses that diligently adhere to established regulations. In an era where international trade is integral to the economy, maintaining the integrity of customs procedures is crucial. Fortunately, the federal False Claims Act offers a powerful mechanism for both businesses and individuals to expose customs fraud, level the playing field, and potentially obtain financial restitution. Working with experienced whistleblower protection lawyers can help safeguard your rights throughout the process. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore the intricacies of the False Claims Act as it relates to customs fraud, delve into an example of customs fraud, outline how to report such fraudulent activities and why you should hire a whistleblower lawyer.

When it comes to reporting customs fraud under the False Claims Act, it’s essential to have the guidance of a skilled whistleblower lawyer by your side.

What is the False Claims Act for Customs Fraud?

The False Claims Act, also known as the “Lincoln Law,” was initially enacted during the Civil War to combat fraud against the federal government. Its purpose has since evolved to encompass various forms of fraud, including customs fraud. Under the False Claims Act, any person or entity that knowingly submits or causes the submission of a false claim for payment or approval to the government can be held liable. This includes fraudulent activities related to customs duties, tariffs, and imports.

Key Provisions of the False Claims Act

Whistleblower Provisions

The False Claims Act includes provisions that empower individuals with knowledge of customs fraud to act as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers, often insiders within a company or industry, play a crucial role in exposing fraudulent practices.

Potential Rewards

Whistleblowers who come forward with credible information about customs fraud may be eligible for a whistleblower reward. This reward typically ranges from 15% to 30% of the government’s recovery, providing a powerful incentive for individuals to report fraud.

Protection Against Retaliation

The False Claims Act includes protections for whistleblowers against retaliation by their employers. Individuals who report customs fraud should not fear adverse employment actions as a result of their disclosures.

What is an Example of Customs Fraud?

To understand the real-world implications of customs fraud, let’s consider a hypothetical example:


ABC Importers is a company that specializes in importing electronics from overseas. To reduce their customs duties, they consistently undervalue the imported goods when declaring them to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). By doing so, they pay significantly lower duties and taxes than they should.

Customs Fraud Elements

In this scenario, ABC Importers knowingly submits false declarations to CBP, misrepresenting the value of their imports. This constitutes customs fraud, as it leads to underpayment of duties and evades the appropriate taxes.


If discovered, ABC Importers could face severe penalties, including fines and potential criminal charges. Additionally, if an insider or competitor were to report this fraud under the False Claims Act, they might be eligible for a whistleblower reward.

Whistleblower attorneys are well-versed in the intricacies of the False Claims Act and can help you navigate the legal process with confidence. Whistleblowers who choose to work with experienced attorneys for whistleblowers can maintain confidentiality while the government investigates the allegations.

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How to Report Customs Fraud

Reporting customs fraud is a critical step in upholding the integrity of the customs system. Persons who come forward to report fraud, whether they are insiders, competitors, or consumers, play an indispensable role in the regulation of the customs system. Collaborating with an attorney for whistleblowers ensures that you maintain confidentiality while the government investigates the allegations. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to report customs fraud:

  1. Consult Legal Counsel

Before taking any further steps, consider seeking legal counsel, especially if you are an insider or an employee of the company involved in the fraud. An attorney experienced in whistleblower cases can provide guidance and protect your rights.

  1. File a Whistleblower Complaint

To report customs fraud under the False Claims Act, you’ll need to file a whistleblower complaint. This can be done by submitting a sealed lawsuit in federal court using a whistleblower lawyer. The complaint should provide a detailed account of the fraudulent activities and the individuals or entities involved.

  1. Maintain Confidentiality

The False Claims Act in some cases ensures that whistleblower complaints remain confidential while the government investigates the allegations. This protection is crucial for whistleblowers who may face retaliation from their employers.

  1. Cooperate with the Government

Once the complaint is filed, the government will initiate an investigation into the allegations. Whistleblowers should be prepared to cooperate with government agencies throughout the process.

  1. Await Government Action

The government may choose to intervene in the case, in which case they will take the lead in prosecuting the customs fraud. If successful, the whistleblower may be eligible for a reward based on the government’s recovery.

  1. Be Prepared for Retaliation

Despite legal protections, whistleblowers may still face retaliation from their employers. It’s essential to be vigilant and document any retaliatory actions taken against you.

Customs fraud is a persistent problem in the United States, undermining businesses that play by the rules and eroding the integrity of the customs system. The False Claims Act serves as a potent weapon against customs fraud, empowering individuals and entities to report these illicit activities and potentially receive financial rewards. Whistleblowers, whether insiders or external observers, are instrumental in regulating the customs system, as so much of it relies on self-reporting and can easily evade detection by the CBP. By coming forward and reporting customs fraud, individuals not only contribute to a fairer marketplace but also stand to benefit from the protections and rewards offered by the False Claims Act using a whistleblower attorney.

If you’re considering blowing the whistle on customs fraud, consult with an experienced attorney for whistleblowers to protect your rights and interests. Whistleblower attorneys are well-equipped to guide you through the legal complexities and potential challenges you may encounter as you seek justice.