Receive a weird package you never ordered? You may be part of a brushing scam
Has a package landed on your doorstep that you never placed an order for? There’s a relatively new scam that’s being used by online sellers to artificially inflate review scores. In fact, one of our Ben’s editors received a mysterious package of disposable masks recently that they didn’t order.
Called a brushing scam, the scammer’s first step is to create a fake purchasing account using your name and address. They place an order for their own item and it gets sent to your address. After the package arrives, they can return to the account and write a “verified purchase” review of the item in your name. The review is fake, but the positive rating artificially inflates their product within Amazon’s ranking system.
While they lose out on the cost of the item, the scammers lose little money since the payment they use goes right back into their account (minus whatever Amazon charges to sell on the platform). If they repeat this enough times, sales numbers shoot up. If actual purchasers receive the item and write negative reviews, they can simply raise the rating again with more fake reviews. Although it’s more likely they move onto a new listing for the same product.
As far as your risk goes, the scammers are basically using your name, address and perhaps your phone number. While it’s unlikely your credit card details have been hacked, it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on your credit report and credit card bills to watch for any issues.
If your credit card details were used to make the purchase, you could be part of a porch pirate scam instead. Thieves use your payment details and address to make a purchase, then hang around your house to snag the package once it’s delivered.
Regarding the brushing scam package, you are legally allowed to keep the unordered merchandise. However, you may want to contact Amazon (or other retailers) if this happens to you. Amazon will investigate and take action against the seller. You can contact Amazon here and they will likely remove any false review using your name.
Products sent are typically on the light side (related to weight). Many consumers have reported receiving disposable masks, seeds for planting, ping pong balls or other light items. However, some folks on Reddit reported receiving a ceiling fan, a bag of doorknobs, sonic mole deterrent devices, and backpacks.
One other tip: If you receive electronics like smart devices, be wary that sophisticated scammers could plant spyware within the device. That could be used spy on you in any number of ways, from pulling your credit card details to watching you via a camera after the device is activated on Wi-Fi. This is similar to the flash drive scam, where a scammer drops a flash drive in a public place that’s loaded up with spyware or malware; basically activated when someone plugs it into their computer.