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Free Gift or Scam Warning: The Dangers of Brushing Scams

packages on front porch

Have you ever received an unexpected package in the mail that you’ve never ordered? What may seem like a gift can be an important clue that your information is being used fraudulently. Brushing scams are gaining exposure as more light is being shined on this scheme. Unscrupulous merchants, oftentimes third-party foreign sellers, use these scams to generate fake online reviews to make their company appear legitimate or boost their online reputation. While it may seem harmless, it is troubling to know someone can be using your personal information fraudulently.

How the Scam Works

Online retailers often rely on customer ratings to enhance their e-commerce presence and make more sales. Unscrupulous schemers often generate fake orders to inflate their sales numbers and post phony customer reviews. The scamming seller needs to show that a shipment took place, so they often steal consumers’ information to send unsolicited deliveries. People have reported receiving anything from empty packages to cheap items such as flashlights, jewelry repair kits, seeds, and ear buds.

The Dangers of Brushing Schemes

While you might think it’s harmless to receive a “free” gift, the actual reality is that your personal information may be compromised. Recovering from identity theft can be very costly. The schemers may use your information for all types of illicit, malicious, and illegal purposes. In addition, the fake reviews boost the merchant’s online rankings, enabling them to scam more consumers.

Delivery Man Handing Packages

What to Do if Unsolicited Packages Show Up

So what should you do if you get a surprise delivery? If you did not order anything, contact the retailer right away to let them know you’ve received an unsolicited delivery. You don’t have to return the item(s). By law, you have the right to keep unordered merchandise. Consider it a free gift.

Inform the retailer that you received a delivery that you didn’t authorize. If there is a review posted that you did not write, let the e-commerce site know so it can be removed. Fake reviews help scammers defraud more customers. For sites similar to Amazon, click on their customer service and report the matter so they can investigate.

The fact that you received an unexpected delivery may be a clue that your information has been compromised. The scammers have more than likely created an account with your information, or they may have taken over your account. Keep an eye on your online accounts for suspicious and unauthorized activity. If something is amiss, report it right away. Change your account passwords and monitor your credit report and accounts for unauthorized transactions.

Always be careful when responding to contest and sweepstakes offers. Con artists often use these types of solicitations to gather information and commit fraud. The same with free trial offers. Make sure to read the fine print to ensure you are not joining a subscription club where you will receive future purchase obligations.

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About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.