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Beware this new Amazon ‘brushing’ scam

A Which? Money member contacted us when Amazon Prime deliveries they didn’t order turned up on their doorstep. Do you know what a ‘brushing’ scam is? We explain the details.

An Amazon Prime member recently let our Which? Money team know that they’d been sent two items they didn’t order and hadn’t paid for; a carbon monoxide detector and some gaming headphones.

When they called Amazon, they were told that the account used to purchase them wasn’t theirs, and that they were paid for with gift vouchers.

Three days later, they received two more packages – braids and a screen protector – but they refused to accept them. Again the member called Amazon, which put a block on the spurious account.

The member then changed their password and ordered a new credit card. No more orders arrived, but why were they sent to them in the first place?

Brushing scams explained

At first glance, receiving packages you haven’t paid for might seem like a great problem to have. But it’s likely to be a new scam known as ‘brushing’.

This type of fraud involves Amazon sellers setting up accounts in a stranger’s name, then sending their products to an unsuspecting recipient.

They then use this account they’ve set up to write fake ‘verified reviews’ in a bid to improve their seller ratings.

In this case, it’s likely that the member’s name and address had been leaked somewhere. We contacted Amazon and it assured us that the member’s genuine account hadn’t been compromised.

With the member’s permission, we also checked their email address on haveibeenpwned.com, a website that tells you whether your data has been part of a breach. In this case, the data had been involved in at least four.

What to do if you’re a victim of ‘brushing’

It’s always good to be cautious where personal data is concerned, so the member was right to report the incident to Amazon, change their password and order a new credit card.

See all our Consumer Rights scams advice

Identity theft is a serious threat as once a criminal has access to your personal information, they can do everything from open an account in your name and run up debt, or use it to get copies of your official documents.

You can ready more on what identity theft is and what to do if you think your information has been compromised in our guide.

Have you had free packages turn up in your name? If so, what did you do? Would you report them or keep them?

Comments
Carrie surrey says:
21 July 2019

Hi, I received two parcels in May from Amazon that I did not order. I contacted Amazon and reported it. I was told they would investigate and I would get a call within the next 24/48 hours. They told me that the items had been paid for by a gift card. I did not hear from them.
Today I received my third parcel a nail heat lamp and an eye massager. I did not order these items. I contacted Amazon who told me that I had two accounts with them ( I only have one account with Amazon) the second account has my name, address and telephone number but a different email address ( I only have one email address) I was told that the investigating team will be contacting me within 24/48, so it will be interesting to see if they actually do this time, I was told that once they have sorted it they will send me a returns label so I can send these items back.

jim says:
23 July 2019

they told me they wont take them back. just bin them or send to charity shop.
worrying that they actually told you that all your details had been used to create another account.
every time i asked they refused due to data protection so i kept arguing so what about my data protection and they wouldnt answer that one.
this is spreading like wild fire and i think its time for watchdog to look into it.

Denise says:
18 September 2019

My husband has received about 15 parcels from Amazon, about 25 items in total over a three month period, so far. All are from China.
My husband doesn’t even have an Amazon account. He has rung them and they told him what was happening but they seemed very unconcerned. They told him they would investigate it then email him their results. He had to remind him that he didn’t have an account with them. They then said there was nothing they could do, but he could keep the items!
We received more parcels so he rung again. This time they said they were able to trace the address where they were coming from, but due to data protection they could not let us know who was sending them. He was told that a block would be put on his name at our address and it would all stop. It didn’t.
Today we have received yet another parcel,
Have rung again today and been told that this would now be escalated, which hasn’t been done before.
Hopefully this is the last of the unwanted parcels.

Denise/Jim , this has been going on for a long time–5 years at least, in the USA and as Which ? states its called “brushing ” ,here is part of a US website information-
But why are people in China sending some random woman in Pennsylvania free hair ties? Why would anyone put in the time, money, and effort to send a stranger on the other side of the world free stuff ?

Chinese agents shipping ridiculous amounts of hair ties to McGeehan is merely an unscrupulous way for them to fraudulently boost sales and obtain positive feedback for their clients’ products on e-commerce sites.

Basically, a “brushing” firm somehow got hold of McGeehan’s name and address — she imagines this happened from placing legitimate orders on AliExpress, the international wing of China’s Alibaba — and then created user profiles for “her” on the e-commerce sites that they wish to have higher sales ratings and favorable reviews on. They then shop for orders via the fake account, compare prices, and mimic everything an actual customer would do, before finally making a purchase from their client’s store. When delivery is confirmed, they then leave positive reviews that appear to the e-commerce platform as “verified.”

Its all part of the E-commerce initiative.

Denise says:
19 September 2019

Hi Duncan
Yes, after reading this thread yesterday I now realise what is going on. We had previously been racking our brains trying to work out who would have sent us these things. We initially thought it was “malicious” but then wondered who it could be as some of the items were not cheap and would anyone really go to this much effort? Some items we’ve been sent I’d looked at myself on Amazon and somewhat linked to the family. So it really has been quite unnerving. We are almost relieved knowing that it’s companies boosting their product reviews. Still so wrong though.
The item we received yesterday was a Beikell Posture Corrector and at present it has 27 five star reviews!!!
I was hoping to see if I could work out who has been sending us our items from the reviews, but then I realised if they are sending us items maybe they are also sending/ “gifting” other people items from the same account so maybe it won’t be as easy as I thought. We’ll see.
Thanks for replying