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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?

Ali McNally says:
26 July 2020

Me too. Two small packages in the last couple of weeks. Amazon promised to get back to me after the first one but they didn’t.

Lucynda-Cherry says:
27 July 2020

I’ve had 4 in the last week! Reported every one of them.
Might earn a few quid from putting stuff on eBay I guess…

Rex says:
5 August 2020

Me too

Karyn says:
29 July 2020

I’ve been getting parcels from China, there is no sender details other than a postal address which when searched doesn’t tell me much, I’ve checked all my online accounts and there is no money being taken, they are items like nail stickers for false nail art, and a wig cap!!! neither are of any use to me and nothing I have ordered. It seems crazy they are sending me stuff free of charge that just goes in the bin.

Denise says:
11 August 2020

Ours started a week ago. Rang Amazon and all they say is keep them or throw them away.Currently we get 3 deliveries a day.

Audrey says:
11 August 2020

It’s very worrying I have received two seater settee bright red from China I phoned amazon and they said they don’t no anything about it 🤔

Already posted via FB login. I have had 5 packages in 6 weeks. No documentation. First 2 they gave me return labels. Would not after that. Latest arrived today and I refused to accept it. Have raised on Amazon “chat” every time. They try to “reassure” and “promise” it won’t happen again, but it keeps on happening. I have tried to email my complaint to Amazon UK

Mr Doug Gurr Chief Executive

Email dgurr@amazon.com

Telephone 0207 084 7911
Switchboard 0207 084 7911
Website https://www.amazon.co.uk
Social Media T F

Postal Address 1 Principal Place, Worship Street, London, EC2A 2FAM
Company Number 03223028C

Chris Robinson says:
27 August 2020

I received a total of 10 items in a week from Amazon that I hadn’t ordered. I checked my bank account hadn’t been compromised. I changed my password, my contact email, my payment card and my designation (how the parcels from Amazon should be addressed). I phoned Amazon and they said I could keep anything I’d received and they would make sure I didn’t get any more. That was 4 days ago. Today, I received anther 5 parcels from Amazon addressed to my old designation.
Problem with Covid deliveries is they leave them on the step and go before I open the door.
Checked online. They’re not all cheap items but my name hasn’t been mentioned (yet?) in any of the reviews.
Checking the Have I Been Pwned site, no declared data breaches affecting me in the last couple of years. I don’t usually use Amazon. I bought some 99p Kindle eBooks a few years ago and just a few weeks ago rented a film for 99p. These unrequested items started after that. I wonder whether its the Amazon account that’s been compromised?

Mark says:
28 August 2020

Whats it called when you buy an item from amazon, one of there recommend sellers, pay £512 for something, it comes broke, it gets sent back, but the item never reaches back to the seller, via amazon, and i dont get a refund, even after sending all details about the item to both seller and amazon, whats this called? Where amazon blames the seller, the seller blames amazon, im still waiting to be refunded from amazon, the site used to buy the item, only had it for one day, amazon say they are looking into it, that was two years ago, and neither i or the seller know where to go , its as if the item has just vanished, yet amazon have had all my proof of details, etc, and to top it all , the other day i had one of those spoof emails about offers from amazon, giving me another chance to reflect my issue with them, £512 is a lot of money to be lost in one day on something broken thats not my fault, after returning the return slip to amazon youd think they would come up with something, this time round they gave me no responce, but on other occasions they say its not been found on your contract details, who is the best one to contact at amazon, and why are they withholding repayment like this, they keep asking me to buy from them, but why should i if they can,t sort out refund issues, i,d be more than interested to understand just why my £512 cannot be returned or be refunded as the item has been returned , either amazon don,t know what there at or theres some sort of scam going with the delivery drivers, either way ive returned the item my end end, its up to amazon their end, i think amazon are either just plain lazy or being a bully,

Hi Mark – I cannot answer your question but you might be able to get your money back by following the advice on this page: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/section-75-of-the-consumer-credit-act

Haggis says:
28 August 2020

Big problem these days is that you cannot REJECT items. Amazon drivers put the item(s) on your doorstep, knock and then drive away before you’ve even opened the door!! You’re left to deal with it which can be difficult if they are bulky items.

Amazon being very ‘laissez faire’ about it doesn’t help either.

Barry says:
3 September 2020

Got a second parcel today. Contacted Amazon who told me that there was indeed a second account with my name and address but with different email and payment card details. Despite them assuring me that they would get back to me following the first unsolicited item, they never did.

I’ve had 4 unordered items from Amazon, despite changing my password. I can’t see any reviews in my name, so I’m not sure what benefit there is to the scammer – presumably they have a completely separate account and are just using me for a UK address. I’ve reported all instances to Amazon – the most recent webchat has been the most promising, as apparently all the items came from the same purchaser.
Interesting, the Customer Service assistant hadn’t heard of brushing scams and believed the items had been sent to the wrong address. I sent them the Which article; fingers crossed they will take some action now.

I’ve had a total of 50 parcels been delivered to a previous address that I’ve not ordered. Amazon keep saying they’ve sorted it and then I get more… amazon are not interested, they would even let me make an official complaint, then put the phone down on me. Complete joke.

I’ve had 3 parcels this week, they do not have my name on them, although they all have the same name. This makes me think it is a random selection of addresses rather than a data breech. Amazon say they have been sent as gifts, they have no paperwork with them. I am told not to return the items, but why is it my responsibility to dispose of things I never ordered? I have been told my case has been referred to the “appropriate team” and that the deliveries will stop. We will see, but if anyone has had any success I would like to know how.

Heather Webb says:
28 September 2020

Just had a delivery to my address but without my name on it, in Amazon-style packaging. How do I (quickly and easily!) communicate this to Amazon? My account doesn’t seem to have been affected – yet…

I used the chat option on the website, you get a bot to start with, but can then get a person. Tell them you want it reporting and escalating, you should send a photo of the parcel. Not sure if it works yet to stop them.

I have also received a random item addressed to me. Nothing in my recent orders and I haven’t been charged.

Paul Bradshaw says:
30 September 2020

Two deliveries in two weeks. Contacted customer services via chat and they advised that with information I provided – I would not receive any more – I would be contacted. Wrong on both counts. Received second lot and contacted customer services via chat – again giving all shipping label information etc. Told I needed to be contacted by Internal team. Contacted within 3 minutes but agent thought I’d called her and as she heard no voice – return dialled my number. Had no clue why I had called – explained I hadn’t but she had been given my contact details by her customer services. I re-explained but she said they had no clue who was sending the items – a that a number of cases being investigated. I thought that the ordering and shipping information held by Amazon might have been clues, but obviously not that straightforward. Poor contact followed by less than assuring advice.