THE CONCERN: Free box loads of merchandise from Amazon right on your doorstep! What could possibly be bad about getting the Santa treatment all year long? Plenty! Your Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers that there is a scary downside to this recent scam. You are not the one who hit the jackpot. A scammer company is the real winner.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS: This scam is called brushing, and it has been popping up all over the country. Suddenly boxes of unordered (by the recipient) merchandise from Amazon begin arriving with no return address except that of Amazon. The items vary, for example, in one case a humidifier, a hand warmer, a flashlight, a Bluetooth speaker and a computer vacuum cleaner arrived.
Why would such merchandise be sent to you if you didn't request it? The companies, usually foreign, third-party sellers that are sending the items are simply using your address and your Amazon information. Their intention is to make it appear as though you wrote a glowing online review of their merchandise, and that you are a verified buyer of that merchandise. They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products' ratings, which means more sales for them. The payoff is highly profitable from their perspective.
The fake online review angle is only one way they benefit. By using the brushing scam, they also are increasing their sales numbers. After all, they aren't really purchasing the items since the payment goes right back to them. Increased sales numbers, even though padded with fake purchases, look good for the company and help lead to more sales. Then there is the "porch pirate" angle. There have been instances where thieves used other people's mailing addresses and accounts, then watched for the delivery of the package so they can steal it from your door before you get it.
The problem with all of this is the fact that someone probably has your Amazon account information since they were able to have the items sent to you as if you purchased them. Certainly, they have your name and address and possibly, your phone number and a password. The company either hacked your account themselves or purchased the information from a hacker. Once the information is out there, it could be used for numerous crooked enterprises.
TIPS FOR THE BRUSHING SCAM:
n You may keep the merchandise. The Federal Trade Commission says you have a legal right to keep unordered merchandise.
n Pay attention when ordering from Amazon. Watch who is actually handling your transactions on sites like Amazon. It is often from a third-party seller. You may want to only purchase items that are shipped by Amazon directly.
n Notify Amazon or the retailer directly. Always use their verified website to get contact information. Never use information from an unsolicited email.
n Change your account passwords. You may want to consider a password manager service to improve account security.
n Report the fake review. Report the review to Amazon or wherever it appears. Brushing is illegal, and they will take the review down.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: To learn about other kinds of scams, go to BBB.org/ScamTips. If you have been the victim of this or another scam, make others aware by filing a report on the BBB.org/ScamTracker.
Better Business Bureau serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices. Visit bbb.org/canton or call 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips, follow on social media and more.