The continuing success of counterfeiting and illicit trading in the alcohol and tobacco sectors has relied on the ability of criminals to copy authentic tax stamps to near perfection. Just as the science and artistry behind genuine tax stamps continue to evolve, so has the power of criminals to source and apply fake stamps that are astonishing in their ability to fool the market until they are detected either by chance or through robust forensic investigation.

In this talk, I argue that the success of the criminal sector relies on exploiting a fundamental psychological property of all humans, whether they are trained inspectors or lay consumers. I will describe this phenomenon and then propose a transformational solution that is based on two critical reforms – mitigating the psychosocial factors that allow criminals to succeed, and applying the right stamp design to assure total success of any programme that chooses to adopt it.

The emergence of a new generation of security solutions promises to galvanise the tax stamp sector and uproot long-held beliefs in this area. These disruptive technologies represent an entirely new way of thinking on how best to secure excise revenue and with it, the very products that consumers worldwide need to place their trust in.