Everyone loves getting a package in the mail, but sometimes you’ll receive an item you don’t remember ordering. Before you chalk up a strange package to an error on Amazon’s part, you should consider that it could be part of a brushing scam.
So, what is the brushing scam and how does it work? Also, how does it affect you and your life?
What is the brushing scam?
A brushing scam is when a person or company selling a product on Amazon buys their own product and sends it to random people. The scam required the scammers to send parcels to legitimate names and addresses, so they would use the harvested information to complete the attack.
This data includes the simple details you’ve already provided, which is enough to create an Amazon account in your name, place an order, and leave a review. Annoying, isn’t it? This is the kind of threat that makes legitimate brands like TikTok using data mining a cause for concern.
Once a brash scammer purchases a product under your name and address, you’ll eventually get an Amazon parcel in the mail that you don’t remember ordering. Although you don’t remember it, there’s a good reason: you’ve never ordered one before!
Why do scammers buy your product for others?
But wait a minute—why on earth are scammers buying your product for other people? Really, why call it a “scam” when it seems like Christmas has come early?
The key here is that the scammer is not acting out of the kindness of his heart. In fact, they are doing this so that they can artificially inflate the score of their product with fake reviews. And to do that, they need an authentic name and address.
Have you ever taken a look at the reviews on an Amazon product, and noticed that some of them are labeled as “Verified Purchase”? This is because the person purchased the product they are reviewing through Amazon, and Amazon shows it with a “Verified Purchase” tag.
Verified reviews carry a lot more weight than non-verified reviews. This is because they are more likely to come from a legitimate customer who owns the product and is giving an honest review. These reviews are more credible to customers than reviews written by robots, as the latter will spam five-star reviews to make the product look more attractive.
Companies know the importance of verified five star reviews and hence they want as many reviews as possible. As such, some of them will create their own verified five-star reviews to encourage genuine buyers to give their products a chance.
To achieve this, the company gets a hold of some truncated names and addresses. They then create an Amazon account in that person’s name and use it to buy one of their products. Now that the fake account has purchased the product, the company can use it to write a glowing, verified five-star review to boost its product rating.
From the company’s perspective, the scandal is now a done deal. However, there is still a package on its way to an unknown person, and when it arrives, it causes a lot of confusion as to where it came from.
As one of many rating boosting schemes, shoppers are learning how to spot fake Amazon reviews and making the most of the tools that separate genuine from fake reviews.
A previous case of brushing scam
This may sound like an outlandish scam that doesn’t seem to have any use in the real world, but it’s actually quite common to see news coverage on this topic.
For example, in late 2020, the BBC reported that thousands of Americans were sent random packets of seed through a brushing scam. What made the scam particularly worrying was the fact that the recipients had no idea what the seeds actually grew, which warned that no one should attempt to plant them.
After this incident, Amazon banned the sale of seeds from its website. No matter how hard a company cracks down on bad actors, there’s always someone trying to cheat the system.
So, be wary of anything questionable, especially around special occasions. For example, Amazon Prime Day comes with some common scams you should be aware of.
Do Brushing Scams Use Your Money?
Seeing random packages through the mail can be worrying because it implies that someone may be enjoying a shopping spree on your credit card. However, you don’t need to fear.
What differentiates the brushing scam from any other hacking methods is that by breaking into your bank account, the person pays for the goods. While most money-oriented scams usually involve someone stealing your money, a brushing scam doesn’t use your own money.
When a company starts a brushing scam, they use their own money to ship the item to you.