/ 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.

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.