Free boxloads of merchandise from Amazon or other companies, right on your doorstep! What could possibly be wrong? Plenty!

The Better Business Bureau of South Central Louisiana is warning consumers that there is a scary downside to this recent scam. You are not the one who hit the jackpot. A scam company is the real winner. 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. There is no return address, or sometimes it just appears to come from Amazon or another retailer, and the receiver has no idea who ordered the items.

Recently, mystery seeds have been popping up in people’s mailboxes across the country, and we believe this may be a form of a brushing scam. Where Scammers mail lightweight (inexpensive to ship) packages, such as ping pong balls and seeds, to people who did not order the merchandise. They do this in order to create fake customer profiles with real names on e-commerce sites, and then create false positive reviews for their products and/or company. 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 that they discovered online. 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.

Why it’s bad news for you

The fact that someone was able to have the items sent to you as if you purchased them indicates that they probably have some of your personal information such as your name, address, and possibly, your phone number. Once the information is out there on the internet, it could be used for numerous crooked enterprises. 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 are instances where thieves use other people’s mailing addresses and accounts, then watch for the delivery of the package so they can steal it from the door before the resident gets it.

What can you do?

• Notify the retailer. Brushing and fake reviews are against Amazon’s policies, so contact Amazon Customer Service if this happens to you and the product appears to come from Amazon. They will investigate and take action on the bad actor. Go directly to Amazon’s website to get their contact information. The company also takes security seriously and encourages customers to report fraudulent purchases or other security issues. If the preference is to contact them by phone; be cautious of searching for support phone numbers.

• Change your account passwords. This may be a sign that personal information has been compromised and to improve account security, keep a close eye on credit reports and credit card bills.

• You are allowed to keep the merchandise. The Federal Trade Commission says you have a legal right to keep unordered merchandise.

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