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BBB Scam Alert: ‘Brushing’ Scam Indicates Serious Problem for Victims

Free box loads of merchandise from Amazon or other companies, right on your doorstep! What could possibly be bad about that? Plenty! Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns consumers that there is a scary downside to this recent scam. You are not the one who hit the jackpot; a scammer is the real winner.

This scam is called brushing, and it has been popping up all over the country. Suddenly, boxes of unordered merchandise from Amazon begin arriving. There is no return address, or sometimes it just appears to come from Amazon or another retailer, and the receiver has no idea who ordered the items. The items are varied. For example, in one case a humidifier, a hand warmer, a flashlight, a Bluetooth speaker and a computer vacuum cleaner arrived unordered. Often, the items received are lightweight and inexpensive to ship, such as ping pong balls, face masks or seeds from China.

Why would such merchandise be sent to you if you didn’t request it? The companies, usually foreign, third-party sellers sending the items are simply using your address which they discovered online. Their intention is to make it appear as though you wrote a glowing online review of their merchandise, and that you are a verified buyer of the merchandise. They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products’ ratings, which means more sales for them. The payoff is highly profitable from their perspective.

Why it’s bad news for you

The fact that someone was able to have the items sent to you as if you purchased them indicates that they probably have some of your personal information such as your name, address, and possibly, your phone number. Once the information is out there on the internet, it could be used for numerous crooked enterprises.

The fake online review angle is only one way they benefit. By using the brushing scam, they also are increasing their sales numbers. Increased sales numbers, even though padded with fake purchases, look good for the company and help lead to more sales.

What can you do?

  • Notify the retailer. Brushing and fake reviews are against Amazon’s policies, so contact Amazon Customer Service if this happens to you and the product appears to come from Amazon. They will investigate and take action against the bad actor. Go directly to Amazon’s website to get their contact information. The company also takes security seriously and encourages customers to report fraudulent purchases or other security issues. If the preference is to contact them by phone; be cautious of searching for support phone numbers.
  • Change your account passwords. This may be a sign that personal information has been compromised and to improve account security, keep a close eye on credit reports and credit card bills.
  • You are allowed to keep the merchandise. The Federal Trade Commission says you have a legal right to keep unordered merchandise.

Other questions regarding shipments of unordered merchandise may be directed to your local BBB, or visit BBB.org.

Report suspicious activities to BBB Scam Tracker.

The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Indiana, which was founded in 1916 and serves 46 counties.