Have you ever received a package from Amazon that you didn’t order, filled with items like Bluetooth speakers, tablets, or electric toothbrushes? While it might seem like a lucky surprise, this could actually be a brushing scam. In these scams, companies, often based in foreign countries, use fake reviews to boost their business ratings.
The fact that you received these packages at your doorstep is concerning, as it may mean that these companies have obtained your personal information.
So, while it might be tempting to keep the unexpected gifts, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks of brushing scams.
How does a brushing scam work?
Brushing scams, frequently referred to as “brushing fraud,” are a common form of e-commerce scam. In this scheme, an individual or group will initiate the process by placing an order for a product from a retailer, and then subsequently having it shipped to a fabricated address.
To further perpetrate the scam, the scammer will then utilize the dummy shipping address to create fake customer accounts.
In addition, they will leave fake positive reviews for the product on the retailer’s website. As a result, this manipulation of the product’s perception deceives other customers.
Here’s an example of how a brushing scam might work:
- The scammer places an order for a product on a retailer’s website and has it shipped to a dummy address.
- The scammer creates fake customer accounts using a dummy shipping address.
- The scammer leaves fake positive reviews for the product on the retailer’s website, using the fake customer accounts.
- At first glance, fake reviews may seem legitimate, but they can actually help to artificially boost the ratings of the product and the company. As a result, these fraudulent reviews can deceive customers and compromise the integrity of the online marketplace.
- The scammer may also send the product to the victim’s address in order to further lend credibility to the fake review.
Brushing scams can be harmful to both consumers and retailers.
For consumers, fake reviews can lead to the purchase of low-quality or defective products, as the scammer’s fake reviews may give the impression that the product is of high quality. For retailers, brushing scams can damage their reputation and lead to lost sales, as consumers may be hesitant to purchase from a retailer with a large number of fake reviews.
Should I be worried about brushing scams?
Be concerned about scams is natural. “Brushing scams” harm both consumers and retailers. Fake reviews can trick consumers into buying low-quality or defective products by giving the impression of high quality. Research and caution are crucial before making a purchase.
Don’t let scam fears discourage online shopping and e-commerce convenience. Take precautions to fully enjoy the benefits of online shopping despite potential risks.
For retailers, brushing scams can damage their reputation and lead to lost sales, as consumers may be hesitant to purchase from a retailer with a large number of fake reviews.
That being said, it is important to keep in mind that not all unexpected packages or positive reviews are part of a brushing scam.
While it is always advisable to exercise vigilance and conduct thorough research before making any purchase, it is equally important not to let the fear of scams discourage one from taking advantage of the conveniences and benefits offered by e-commerce. In other words, one should not let the potential risks deter them from shopping online.
By being aware of the tactics that scammers use and taking steps to protect yourself, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to a brushing scam or any other type of fraud.
Can I open the package and keep the items?
It is generally not advisable to keep items that you receive as part of a brushing scam. Here are a few reasons why:
- It is illegal to keep items that you know have been obtained through fraud.
- Keeping the items may contribute to the success of the scam and encourage the scammer to continue their fraudulent activities.
- Keeping the items that were obtained through fraud may seem harmless, however, doing so could inadvertently provide the scammer with personal information, such as your name and address, which could then be exploited for identity theft or other forms of fraud. In other words, by keeping the items, you risk exposing yourself to further potential frauds.
- If you keep the items, you may be at risk of being scammed again in the future, as the scammer may try to send you more fraudulent packages or solicit you for more scams.
It is a good idea to report any suspected scams to the authorities and to the retailer from whom the items were ordered. This can help protect you and others from falling victim to similar scams in the future.
Our investigations into Common Scams of 2023
What to do if you suspect you’re part of a brushing scheme
If you suspect that you are part of a brushing scheme, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself:
Do not keep the items
Previously, we have stated that it is against the law to possess items that you are aware have been obtained through fraud. Furthermore, retaining these items can aid the scammer in continuing their fraudulent activities, and thereby, encourages them to persist in their deceptive behavior.
Contact the retailer
If you received the items from a retailer, notify the retailer of the situation and ask them to take appropriate action.
Contact the authorities
If you suspect that you are part of a brushing scheme, it is important to report the matter to the authorities. This can help protect you and others from falling victim to similar scams in the future.
Protect your personal information
If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised, take steps to protect yourself from identity theft or other types of fraud. This may include changing your passwords, monitoring your credit reports, and being cautious about providing personal information to unfamiliar individuals or organizations.
Brushing Scam Blacklist
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A brushing scam, also known as “brushing fraud,” is a type of e-commerce scam in which an individual or group orders a product from a retailer and has it shipped to a dummy address. The scammer then creates fake customer accounts using the dummy shipping address, and leaves fake positive reviews for the product on the retailer’s website. These fake reviews can help boost the ratings of the product and the company, but they can be harmful to both consumers and retailers.
If you receive a package from a company that you did not order, this could be a sign that you are part of a brushing scam. Other signs may include fake positive reviews for a product appearing on a retailer’s website under your name or a dummy account, or requests for personal information from unfamiliar individuals or organizations.
It is generally not advisable to keep items that you receive as part of a brushing scam. Keeping the items may contribute to the success of the scam and encourage the scammer to continue their fraudulent activities. Additionally, if you keep the items, you may be at risk of being scammed again in the future.
If you suspect that you are part of a brushing scam, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself. These include contacting the retailer and the authorities, protecting your personal information, and staying vigilant for other potential scams.
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from future brushing scams. These include doing your research before making a purchase, looking for reviews from verified purchasers, and being wary of overly positive or negative reviews. You should also be cautious about providing personal information to unfamiliar individuals or organizations and be on the lookout for requests for money or financial assistance.
The risks of falling victim to a brushing scam include the purchase of low-quality or defective products, damage to a retailer’s reputation, and the potential for identity theft or other types of fraud.
There are several telltale signs that a review may be part of a brushing scam. These include overly positive or effusive reviews with little to no criticism of the product, reviews written in poor English with grammar and spelling errors, reviews that provide little detail about the product, reviews written by new or infrequent reviewers with no other reviews under their account, and reviews accompanied by fake photos or videos.
Yes, you can report suspicious reviews to the retailer. Many retailers have processes in place to detect and remove fake reviews, and reporting suspicious reviews can help protect others from falling victim to a brushing scam.
If you have fallen victim to a brushing scam, it may be possible to recover from the experience. This may include taking steps to protect your personal information, reporting the matter to the authorities and the retailer, and staying vigilant for future scams.
While there are risks associated with shopping online, it is generally safe to shop online as long as you take steps to protect yourself. This includes doing your research before making a purchase, using secure payment methods, and being cautious about providing personal information to unfamiliar individuals or organizations. By being aware of the tactics that scammers use and taking steps to protect yourself, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to scams and enjoy the convenience and benefits of online shopping.
Attention: Scammers may have breached the personal information of consumers they have contacted. TotalScam!™ advises consumers whose information has been breached to immediately obtain an identity theft protection service.
There are several companies that offer identity theft protection in the US. One of the most inexpensive options we were able to find is the protection offered by LifeLock. You can start your protection here.
Disclaimer: The information and opinions contained on this site are not endorsed by LifeLock. TotalScam!™ receives compensation from LifeLock. This helps support our scam prevention efforts.