The Federal Trade Commission and cyber experts warn consumers about these deliveries that may be part of what is known as “brushing” scams.
Here’s how these scams work: Third-party sellers on Amazon, eBay, and other online marketplaces write fake positive reviews about their products or pay people to do it themselves. To be able to post reviews, these so-called “blushers” need to trick the site into pretending to be a legitimate deal. Therefore, we use a fake account to order gifts and address them to a random person who finds their name and address online. Then, instead of actually mailing the item for which you want to post a review, the brusher will send you a cheaper, often lighter item that costs less to ship.
When you submit an item (even if it’s wrong), a tracking number will be created, and once the package is delivered, Brusher can write a confirmed review. On the receiving side, purchase fees are usually not charged and the actual account is not hacked, but it is exposed to the darkness of who is repeatedly sending mystery packages. In most cases, there is no sender address. According to experts, if you get a package that could be part of a brushing scam, you don’t have to worry about anything wrong or happening to you. But we all have to worry about scams that affect the reviews we rely on when buying products.
Brushing scams reportedly occurred on Chinese e-commerce sites about five years ago. They reappeared in the headlines last summer when all 50 states warned about the mysterious unsolicited seed packaging that people across the country received by mail.
But it’s not just seeds. Unquestioned recipients also found a box containing items ranging from the dog’s Pooper Scooper to the power cord to the soap dispenser at the front door.
Jembrin of Thousand Oaks, California, told CNN Business that he has been receiving random packages such as briefcases, backpacks, straight hair irons and coffee cup warmers since June.
“Every two weeks … I get another package by email with a random one I’ve never ordered,” she said. Brin notified Amazon of the issue, but the customer service agent “did not really understand what I was saying. She obviously didn’t know about it,” she said. The agent looked up Brin’s account and found nothing wrong.
It is not illegal to send unordered items to customers.However [Federal Trade Commission] I’ve been pursuing marketers who use fake reviews for a long time. ” David Vladeck, a former director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Agency and a law professor at Georgetown University, said.
Amazon says its policy prohibits sellers from sending unsolicited merchandise to customers, and the seller can be removed from the site to do so.
An Amazon spokeswoman said in an email, “Third-party sellers are prohibited from sending unsolicited packages to customers, withholding payments, suspending or removing sales privileges, and working with law enforcement agencies. We will take action against users who violate the policy. ” Amazon does not mention how many brushing scams were found on the site or how many sellers were removed due to these scams.
An eBay spokeswoman said in an email that the brushing scheme “doesn’t seem to be very popular” on the site. Sending unsolicited items to customers or tampering with reviews violates eBay’s policies and may result in eBay restricting sellers’ accounts or suspending accounts from the site.
Experts also find it difficult to quantify the frequency of such scams, as it can be difficult for businesses to know if a review is fake and scams are often not reported by consumers. say.
The fact that you received an unordered package is usually harmless. Former Amazon policy enforcement investigator Chris McCabe said fraud and the task of stopping fraud would hurt those who rely on reviews when making purchase decisions. He is currently a consultant for the site seller.
“The real loser here is the consumer who may believe in many of these fake positive reviews, or this artificial padding of reviews, he said.
According to a 2017 report by the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University, consumers are 270% more likely to buy a product with a review than they are to buy a product without a review.
Some fake reviews are being promoted by the Facebook group, and if you write a positive product review, the seller will provide the buyer with money. He said Amazon and Facebook should work together to crack down on these groups.
An Amazon spokesperson analyzes more than 10 million reviews each week to prevent fake reviews from being published and provides social media companies with research details: “These malicious individuals abuse the platform. You can prevent it from happening. “
A Facebook spokeswoman said in an email that if the company was notified of groups that might encourage fake reviews, they would review them and remove them if they violated the policy.
Unnecessary sheets and shiatsu massager
For consumers, unexpected deliveries can be jarring. Packages never ordered by Ashante Nicole began arriving at their home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2019.
iPhone and portable car charger. iPad case. Heated acupressure massage. Nail cleaning brush and blow dryer. Sheet. Mattress cover. Floppy fish toys.
Nicole didn’t know who sent the package because they didn’t have a return address. She contacted Amazon to stop them from coming, but they are still arriving at her doorstep.
“I was a little worried because I don’t know who has my information,” she said. “I don’t know what they’re sending me. They could send me illegal things, but I didn’t know who they were or what they were sending me. ,I’m in trouble.”
An FTC spokeswoman emailed that if you received an item you didn’t order, a scammer might have created an account in your name or hijacked your account. The scammer may have created a new account with another name associated with your address, allowing you to post lots of seemingly genuine reviews.
“It’s a good idea to monitor your online shopping account. If you find an activity that doesn’t belong to you, report it to the site immediately and consider changing the password for that site,” a spokeswoman said. Said.
Nicole feels he has done everything he can by alerting Amazon each time a one-sided package from a retailer arrives at the front door.
“Literally, there’s nothing I can do other than telling Amazon every time it happens, and it didn’t really help much,” she said.
Amazon refused to comment directly on Nicole and Brin’s accounts, but said it would need to contact Amazon’s customer service team if the customer received a one-sided package.
Nicole said he hopes Amazon will stop brushing and do more to ban sellers from participating in fraud.
“I think they need to be a little more interested in closing those stores and making their sellers unavailable to the platform.”
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“Brushing” scams: FTC warns about scams including fake Amazon, eBay reviews, and random package delivery
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