/ 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.

28/10/2021: One million households potentially targeted

New research has suggested that one million UK households could have been victims of the Amazon ‘brushing’ scam we originally reported here on Which? Conversation in December 2018.

Commenting on the latest findings, our Director of Policy and Advocacy, Rocio Concha, said:

“Consumers should be able to trust that the popularity and reviews of products they are buying online are genuine, so it is troubling that third-party sellers appear to be using brushing scams to game Amazon Marketplace.

Amazon needs to do more to thoroughly investigate instances of brushing scams and take strong action against sellers that are attempting to mislead consumers.

Our #JustNotBuyingIt campaign is also demanding that strong new laws are introduced by the government to force tech giants to protect people online.”

05/12/2018: new Amazon ‘brushing’ scam

Originally written by Amelia Wade

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

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


Comments
Felicity says:
28 October 2021

I received a large Amazon Prime parcel last year addressed to me by name. I never use Amazon and so, not having an account, had difficulty getting any response from them at all. I contacted my bank in case any money should be taken. Later I discovered fake poorly written reviews for these products on Amazon, supposedly written by me. It worried me that my details were known and I contacted the Observer about it. They were very helpful and at that point I had a response from Amazon. I also was told to keep the products. However, they were very poor quality and I threw them away.

Mrs Pamela Burdett says:
28 October 2021

About two years ago, I received a Nike ipad air tablet from Amazon. I was astonished because I had not ordered it. I contacted Amazon to say that I had not ordered it and asked hterfore how to return it. I was told to use the receipt in the pcpackage and return it there. However, there was nor receipt or evn any kind of invoice. In the meantime, I checked my bank statement and discovered that £720 had been taken by Amazon (or so I thought). I immediately contacted Amazon again to ask why this money had ben taken and was eventually told someone had set up the account and had obviously accessed the details on my Amazon account. I was told to inform my bank, Santander, and get them to pass it to their fraud department, which I did. Santander reimbursed me my money and said they would then try to get it back from Amazon. I have no idea whether they did or no. I also changed my Amazon’s account password and had to apply for a new credit card and cancel the old one.
I then tried to return the ipad to Amazon, fearing that if I did not, they would get back to me and ask for the money. After several fruitless emails, I was getting now where as to how to return it. I eventually sent an email to Jeff Besoz and received a ‘phone call from some one in Scotland, who said he would deal with the matter and get back to me. Stiil no further communication. In the end, I sent an email myself -after about 6 months of trying to return it- stating that if I did not hear from them within the next five days as to how to return the item, I would assume that I could keep it! I received a reply stating that I could keep it. I have retained copies of my communications with Amazon, in case, at some future date, they request the item be returned. I am still in possession of it and use it daily!

Hesham says:
29 October 2021

I did rec’d 3 items last year from Amazon which I didn’t ordered or pay for it furthermore I have no Amazon account n I do very little on line shopping, I tried to report it to Amazon to find out who sent it to me n how they got my full name n address, Amazon I repeat Amazon customer services were very unhelpful nnkeep asking me for my account number even I told them million times I have no account with them, I also request if they come n collect d items I received but told me to keep,thank god my credit card was ok, I think Amazon should do better n should train their staff to listen to the problem n deal with it, surely they should trace who ordered n paid for d items

Jacqueline Oxley says:
29 October 2021

I received around 50 of these parcels over a two period, after continual wasted efforts to get Amazon to act in desperation I saw that someone had emailed Jeff Bezos directly – obviously not him – but only then after a strongly worded email did they action an elevated enquiry. I had an appointed agent and it took a while but so far no more of these unsolicited packages have arrived. At first it was quite worrying but I then realised I wasn’t the only one. Sadly you can’t believe a single review on Amazon now.

I got a mystery package yesterday and had not heard of this before. It contained a broken plastic pump-action toy rifle made in China. I recycled the packaging but it went straight in the bin. I will report it to Amazon and may close my account as things like this are destroying the planet.

I received an animated phone call telling me amazon are charging me £300??? I dont know what for or where they think there taking money from because I panicked an put the phone down. Help. Phone number -: 028 8601 0707

Phil says:
29 October 2021

A search of the number reveals that it’s a landline in Cookstown, NI and the source of numerous scam calls allegedly from Sky or Amazon. They’re after your bank details. Carry on putting the ‘phone down and ignore.

I had one a couple of weeks ago, some Asian guy claiming to be “Amazon Refunds Department” or some such. ‘Phone got put down. They haven’t rung back.

Richard. says:
29 October 2021

I get these scam phone calls multiple times a day on a regular basis along with other calls from scammers. The Councils together with the Gas, Electrisity and Water Utilities sell your name, phone numbers and address details on to these criminals. With the amazon ones I get told by an answerphone message to press a certian number button on my phone but I press any other number than the one I’m instructed to. Eventually either an Asian or Nigerian person comes on claiming to be from Amazon asking If I want to renew my Prime subscription (which I’ve never had) and tells me he’s taken £300 from my account. I ask him for the account number he took the money from and ofcourse he can’t tell me, gets upset and puts the phone down on me. With all the scammers that ring me I have a bit of fun and play the dementia ridden old man who is easy prey. They then think their birthdays have all come at once so when asked for my account details I read them eight numbers from my RAC membership card, a fictious sort code plus pin and security numbers. I then tell them that I’m ever so greatful to them for alerting me to this scam and ask if they would be so kind and send a courier around to my house to collect my Bank card. I tend to keep them on the phone for as long as possible just wasting their time. Often when the penny drops that they’re being taken for a ride they launch into a foul mouthed tirade as I laugh down the phone at them. Another one rang yesterday with an answerphone message to say my card had been used abroard to withdraw £5000, so again I pressed any button but the one the answerphone told be to and true to form on came an Asian bloke. He told me my card had been used in China. I thanked him for informing me of this, let him ramble on for a while then told him I knew about it and had in fact authorised the transaction. Astonished he said, “you did? Who was the payment to”? I told him I couldn’t quite remember his name and he said “was it a Mr John Brown”? I said, ” Yes, yes, that’s him, thankyou so much for jogging my memory”. The then screamed down the phone in uncouth terms that I should go and have sexual intercourse with myself while I laughed back at him. Irratating these prats really brightens up my day. You should try it some time, it’s fun.

hi, we have been receiving calls like this for about 4 years .These scammers hope that you press the button on your phone then they ask you to pay in an effort to get your bank details. if you get any more just don’t press any buttons and hang up. We also had as many as 4or5 in one day we just put the phone down.
hope this helps. Bee x.

Hi there, we had a look for you and certainly this number is linked to an Amazon phone scam. If you wanted to report this number you can do using our guidance below. Hope this helps.

https://who-called.co.uk/Number/02886010707

https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-report-a-scam-aG3sH5L8tjeP

I use the ‘block this number’ facility on my Android, as they come only to my mobile. And then delete the call record. The frequency of these calls seems gradually to be dropping. I feel sorry for the poor souls who find themselves in such a sad job; presuming their alternative is no job? I guess it drives the competition between the phone providers, which means my phone costs are one of the few utilities still getting cheaper these days ?

Like other people who have posted, although I have never received any parcels which I haven’t ordered I get numerous calls allegedly from Amazon. Like others, I either put the ‘phone down immediately, sometimes I turn the Radio up really loud and place my ‘phone by the speaker. On one occasion, I received a scam call from another “body” and when they asked if I was the owner of my property I told them they had called the wrong number and they were talking to the “Criminal Investigation Department”. I can assure you the line went “dead” straight away.

Janine Holt says:
29 October 2021

Well I ordered something from Amazon which should have been delivered in November, found out it had been delivered 11th October, not with us, we suspect it went to another address in the same area we live in, so I wrote a letter to the other address, explaining the situation and now am waiting for a phone call. This other address, years ago, we received their letters by mistake.

Graham says:
29 October 2021

A friend of mine and his family had a brilliant solution to these type of scam calls. The family makes a game of it.
When they first get a scam call, they set a timer going and after a few seconds make an excuse to get something (e.g. account number, pen & paper or payment card). At that point they put the phone on silent, so they can still hear the caller, but they can’t be heard. They then get on with watching TV or eating etc. When they hear the caller hang up, they write down who answered the call and the time it took before the call was disconnected. The winner is the person who answered the scam call that was on for the longest time. The winner gets an agreed prize like choosing which takeaway they have that month or what to watch on Netflix or DVD etc

Unfortunately none of this will prevent ‘Which’ from promoting this American company with poor employee relations and an appalling history of avoiding tax in this Country because the ‘charity’ gets payment for referrals from the ‘Which’ site. I’m so sad that a charity set up to help British consumers
should have sunk so low.

Howard OWENS says:
11 November 2021

Have to agree with David P – Which? should have nothing to do with mis-ruled companies. Having treasured the printed magazine for many of its early years, I now sense a change in culture. Something’s flavouring the way reports are written up. A hint of hype is replacing unbiased reform.

Ruth says:
9 January 2022

Just received package from Amazon. Contained a book called Yorkshire revealed. brushing Scam.
Tried to contact Amazon UK Customer services via my account, but it just sent me round in a circle to items I had ordered – absoutely useless! I don’t think Amazon are really bothered about this scam as it would probably cost them too much to take any action against the scammers.