/ Money

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
Allison says:
11 January 2019

i have been receiving small packages from china since 2015 that i haven’t ordered. i thought i was the only person experiencing this! i really dont know how to stop this. I have since deactivated my Ali express account but occasionally still receive the packages. Anyone else had or has this experience

Olivia Buckley says:
4 February 2019

Hi Alison, I’m contacting you from the BBC. This is something I am looking into and I’m interested in hearing about your experience. If you’re happy to speak with me, please send me an email to olivia.buckley01@bbc.co.uk. Many thanks, Olivia

Hi Allison, I’m contacting you from the BBC. I am interested in hearing about your experience as this is something I am looking into. If you’re happy to speak with me, please send me an email to olivia.buckley01@bbc.co.uk. Many thanks, Olivia.

Hi Olivia. Hope you’re well. Good to see that Rip Off Britain is interested in the brushing scam we’ve covered here. This story came from one of our case studies for our Money magazine – if you’d like me to put you in touch with the author (@awade) then I’m sure she’d be able to give you some more details.

Do let me know 🙂

George.

Hi George. Yes, that would be great! Please feel free to pass over my details. My email is olivia.buckley01@bbc.co.uk. Many thanks, Olivia.

Thanks Olivia 🙂 Have let Amelia know now.

Richard Collins says:
30 March 2019

I’ve been receiving packages, all random Chinese tat for the last week or so. I’ve contacted Amazon who said it was someone who has the same address as me but wouldn’t say who

They said they’d contact the sender and ask them to stop but inadvertently sent me the email which was addressed to someone called ‘Darla’. I don’t know anyone by that name :/

Really not sure what to do other than keep contacting amazon

Chris Baines says:
17 January 2019

Exact same thing happened to me last month. Worst thing is, Amazon didn’t seem too concerned that it had happened, told me I can keep the deliveries and also told me that they don’t have a security department that I could report it to, despite me stating that I believe a fraud had been committed.

Rachel says:
3 February 2019

I’ve had exactly the same thing happening to me. I got the police involved. I thought I had some weird stalker !

Hi Chris, I’m contacting you from the BBC. I am interested in hearing about your experience as this is something I am looking into. If you’re happy to speak with me, please send me an email to olivia.buckley01@bbc.co.uk. Many thanks, Olivia.

We’ve been getting random packages for months. Every time we contact Amazon, they won’t tell us anything about the person sending them and they won’t make it stop. They tell us just to keep the packages or donate them.

yvette says:
16 March 2019

i’ve been getting the same thing. Amazon has said that the address is the same. Email address different. They said I can keep the products. They will look into it.

Alice Evans says:
29 March 2019

Same been happening to me very unhappy about this Amazon not doing anything

Emma Ironmonger says:
6 April 2019

This has just happened to me today. 3 cool towels in an Amazon box, no paper work. I rang Amazon straight away who took the number starting with a Q. She said it was sent as a gift but was unable to say who sent it. She said she would email them to let them know I had received it and for me to keep the gift. She wasn’t concerned at all, but something just doesn’t sit right with me?????

Kate says:
13 April 2019

Me again… I have received two new ‘gifts’ from amazon…a power bank and a leather key ring thing. I have no payment details with amazon so I know I’m not being charged. After my last call to them I am assuming these are gifts but still cannot understand why I receive them.Who could benefit from this apart from me as the recipient?

Kate says:
17 April 2019

Me again! Another ‘gift’ received today, this time its a set of 2 phone chargers (for a phone I don’t own). Again, sent from amazon with no packaging information…

Hi Kate,

Have you checked to see whether you have ‘written’ any ‘glowing reviews’?

If you read the Boston Globe article on the previous page, a clue is China where stuff is produced dirt-cheap. They can afford to give cheap stuff away to get reviews apparently although they are probably from a false account.

Have you identified the products on Amazon? If so, would you like to list them here? You can miss off the https:// and they won’t go into moderation. I rather enjoy digging into dodgy Amazon stuff.

D McMurray says:
18 April 2019

Hi , I’ve been receiving packages from Amazon that I have not ordered. I have contact Amazon to no avail. The items are if no use to me , so I don’t know what to do with . I have tried refusing them with the courier but they just say it’s your name your address ,,, your problem . Without return labels , I would have to foot the bill to return the items to Amazon. It’s a right pain .
Dale

Bri says:
10 May 2019

Just refused a delivery from Amazon of a branded washing pole that had our correct delivery details on. I refused delivery as seemed very dodgy.
Will be interesting to see if any subsequent deliveries not ordered arrive….
Speaking to the delivery driver he said that he’s delivered lots of washing poles today and thought perhaps they were on special offer.
B

Jim says:
17 May 2019

Hi
I belong to a UK forum and we have a thread with hundreds of posts of daily tatt being delivered by Amazon to hundreds of people all around the UK.
ive received around 15 items now and one prime delivery.
a month ago i contacted Amazon by phone about this Pushing scam. at first they tried to make out it must have been one of my friends who had sent me a gift and the usual we dont really care.
after that i emailed them with all the Q numbers and a picture of the items and my address on the box.
strangely within an hour i was contacted and advised this had been escalated for me as they could see on their system the items had been sent to me but not see that i had ordered them.
they could not tell me the results of their finding due to data protection.
since the above email i sent them all the deliveries stopped.

so hang on a minute. they cannot divulge the info they find due to data protection but what about my data protection. i work with GDPR on a daily basis so i know when something is not right. my info from Amazon is being used fraudulently and items are being delivered to my address with my full details on them.

sadly last week i ordered 2 items and this week the tatt has started again. 2 packages so far. eyebrows trimmer but in the pack was 2 hanging hooks and yesterday a black head spot remover.

S Marsh says:
26 May 2019

I have just received a gift 26.05.19 from Amazon for something I was looking at on their website it does have a packing slip in it and tape sealing the box prime and a code on the label it was delivered by a courier. What should I do?

jim says:
27 May 2019

check your bank account straight away to see if money has been paid out to amazon.
all the 17 packages ive received have no paperwork included.
it does seem strange though that you had previously been looking at the same item.
if no money taken from account and you like it then keep it. if not like all mine they got sent to the charity shop.

Kate says:
31 May 2019

Hi Kate, thanks for link, it reveals some interesting stuff.

Two of the fake reviewers, Angela D. and hong h. have ‘written’ 17/16 fake reviews with 9 items the same or similar products. Their bad English gives them away somewhat. Presumably one of fake reviewers will be ‘you’.

A look at a few of them…………..

Water mat
Angela D. – My baby is interested, it’s colorful, eye-catching. He tries to catch the animals in it and this makes him so happy. This is just a great thought for tummy time toy. And it also make a great holiday gift for baby.

hong h. – My baby likes to see the little foam animals moving in it. He can lay on belly for tummy time, sit on the play mat or relax on back like mattress. The material is soft and does not leak water.

The German and French versions of the water mat:
https://www.amazon.de/Urmelody-Aufblasbare-Wassermatte-Kleinkinder-Spielzeug/dp/B07PR9CP55/ref=sr_1_3?__mk_de_DE=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&keywords=urmelody&qid=1560012258&s=gateway&sr=8-3
https://www.amazon.fr/Urmelody-Gonflable-Enfants-stimuler-Croissance/dp/B07PR9CP55/ref=sr_1_1?__mk_fr_FR=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&keywords=Urmelody+Tapis+Gonflable&qid=1560017534&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Charminer Cushioned Compression Arch Support
Angela D. – I have flat feet. They really help with the extra support.These are so discreet. i love it so much

hong h. – As a teacher, standing is our daily posture, but unfortunately, I am a flat foot, these arches support saved me.I wore these the minute I got them and then the next day at work, They have saved my life. My feet haven’t hurt all day and they are so comfortable!

They have both reviewed similar anti-wrinkle serums supposedly from different Chinese sellers as they have different VAT numbers. But a check on the VAT numbers gives the same UK address with a company called Nice Accounting , 2/F Rear 36 Gerrard Street, London W1D 5QA who claim small company total exemption from providing full accounts.

They have both reviewed similar replacement batteries supposedly from different Chinese sellers as they have different VAT numbers. But a check on the VAT numbers gives both companies at the same UK address this time in Portsmouth.

They have both reviewed 2 phone protectors each with 2 of them identical.
They have both reviewed similar storage boxes/bags.
They have both reviewed similar fitness trackers.
They have both reviewed similar packs of gel pens.

This is obviously wrong on so many levels. Firstly the fake reviews to boost their sales. There is no way two buyers would purchase this many similar or the same products. And I have only skimmed the surface of 2 of the fake reviewers, there are many more.

There are obvious connections between the products, sellers and reviewers. The UK, German and French versions of the water mat show the same products under ‘the customers who bought this item also bought:’

The orders all seem to be fulfilled by Amazon. The Chinese sellers are obviously connected in some way, but use different names with different GB VAT numbers, some using the same virtual office addresses in the UK. Why? Tax avoidance?

Surely Amazon knows this is going on and can identify these dodgy sellers. Why aren’t they getting them removed?

Kate says:
10 July 2019

Wow Alfa, that is brilliant, thank you for investigating. I received a bike phone carrier accessory last week, my brother was extremely pleased when I gave it to him. He spends quite a bit with amazon and hasn’t ever had a ‘gift’, he was starting to feel a bit miffed! The rest of the random stuff has gone to my local charity shop, they were very happy, so I’ll continue to pass things on as they arrive. I’m assuming that my personal details have been obtained through some type of security breach back when I had an amazon account, this is worrying and something amazon should investigate. Their response to my queries so far has been to tell me that I should be happy that I am receiving gifts from people, nothing more.

You’re welcome Kate. I have never had a ‘gift’ either.

I think it all has to do with Chinese sellers and VAT fraud. They keep creating new seller IDs and VAT numbers using free ‘gifts’ as a way to build up a quick good review status.

Which? recently ran a convo on fake reviews on which I posted some useful sites if you want to do your own checking into sellers.

https://conversation.which.co.uk/shopping/fake-reviews-campaign-petition/#comment-1569723

Barbara says:
3 June 2019

I just received a package, not from Amazon, but someone in Plovdiv, Poland. It is a shirt I never ordered. It had my name, including middle initial, as well as my correct address. I had to sign for it. I’m a bit worried as my handbag was stolen at the end of March. My cards were changed straight away and there are no suspicious activities. My Amazon account looks OK as well. I’m unsure who I should report this to or if I need to purchase Protective Registration cover. Any advice appreciated!

Zoe says:
8 June 2019

My Dad has just received a t-shirt today from Bulgaria, sent by tracked mail, and no paperwork inside.

Hi Zoe,
Tank tops from Bulgaria was discussed here at some length:
https://www.reddit.com/r/RBI/comments/9tjlrn/someone_from_bulgaria_has_started_sending_me/

jim says:
9 June 2019

mine has now stopped. nothing since my last post above.
contact amazon or email support with a picture of the item and in the same picture the box with the code and your address showing and they will escalate it as they will then be able to check against your address and see you did not order it.
hundreds are still getting them on the forum i belong too but the items are getting much better like B-B-Q cover from Germany, tri-pod and mobile phone holder, Wireless doorbell with 3 bells and two push buttons, Hard shell case for MacBook Pro 15″, Power bank 1000mah, Children’s baseball game with self pop up ball launcher, Men’s five blade razor with 4 spare blades, Solar garden lights in gold star shape with 20 and many many more.

Angela Ainsworth says:
11 July 2019

My son has just received a strange looking orange jumper in the post, which he never ordered, from someone in Bulgaria. The parcel was tracked but with no paperwork inside. The sender also had his name and address including middle initial. Not sure what to do about this.