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What is Brushing Scam on Amazon?

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  • 5 min read

In the vast realm of online shopping, where convenience meets endless options, there lurks a deceptive practice known as the ‘brushing scam’. While many are familiar with the convenience and accessibility of platforms like Amazon, few know the shadowy tactics some sellers employ to manipulate ratings, inflate sales figures, and deceive consumers.

Here we discuss Brushing scams, how they work, how they impact consumers and the marketplace, and what to do if you receive such a package.

Also read: How to identify phishing scams?

What is Brushing scam?

The Brushing Scam is a fraudulent scheme where sellers on Amazon, or sometimes even third-party entities, create fake orders for products and ship them to unsuspecting individuals. The twist is these individuals did not place any orders themselves. Instead, the scammer uses their names and addresses to make it appear legitimate transactions have occurred.

  • Fake reviews: Positive reviews play a crucial role in the success of online businesses. They establish trust, influence consumer’s buying choices, and enhance a product’s visibility in search results. By artificially increasing the number of positive reviews, sellers can deceive potential buyers into thinking their products are more popular and of better quality than they are.
  • Boosting sales rankings: On platforms like Amazon, products are ranked based on various factors, including sales volume. Selling products to random addresses can artificially inflate their sales numbers, improving their rankings and visibility on the platform.
  • Manipulating data: In some cases, sellers use brushing to manipulate data for other purposes, such as gaming advertising algorithms or meeting sales targets set by manufacturers.

How the scam works?

The process of executing a brushing scam typically involves several steps:

  • Acquisition of personal information: Sellers obtain personal information, such as names and addresses, either through legitimate means (e.g., from previous purchases) or through data breaches.
  • Sending unsolicited packages: Sellers ship inexpensive or low-value items to the addresses they’ve acquired. These items are often lightweight and inexpensive to ship.
  • Creating fake reviews: After the packages are delivered, the sellers use fake accounts to leave positive reviews for the products, thus boosting their ratings and visibility.
  • Masking identity: To avoid detection, sellers may use various techniques to mask their identity, such as using virtual private networks (VPNs) or employing third-party fulfillment services.

The impact on consumers and the marketplace

While the brushing scam may seem harmless on the surface, it can have significant consequences for both consumers and the e-commerce ecosystem:

  • Consumer privacy concerns: Receiving unsolicited packages can raise concerns about privacy and data security. Consumers may wonder how sellers obtained their personal information and worry about potential identity theft or further exploitation of their data.
  • Misleading reviews: Fake reviews have the potential to mislead shoppers into buying products that might not meet their expectations. This erodes trust in online reviews and undermines the integrity of the e-commerce marketplace.
  • Unfair competition: Honest sellers who play by the rules are at a disadvantage when competing against those who engage in brushing. Fake reviews and inflated sales numbers give dishonest sellers an unfair advantage, making it harder for legitimate businesses to succeed.

How to spot a Brushing scam?

If you receive a package you didn’t order, particularly something inexpensive or generic, it might be a brushing attempt. Here are some signs:

  • No packing slip or invoice: Legitimate packages usually have information about the contents and sender.
  • Suspicious return address: The return address may be missing or non-existent.
  • Unfamiliar item: The product you receive is something you didn’t buy.
  • Low-value or generic item: Brushing scams often involve inexpensive or generic items to minimise costs.

What to do if you receive a brushed package?

  • Don’t contact the seller: Reaching out might confirm your address and validate it for the scammer.
  • Report it to Amazon: Amazon strictly prohibits brushing. You can report the incident through their website
  • Keep the package: While not obligated to keep it, throwing it away might allow the scammer to claim non-delivery and request a refund. If you choose to keep it, store it safely.
  • Report the fraud to the FTC: Reporting cases of identity theft and scams to the FTC can aid law enforcement in combating such crimes. Additionally, the FTC provides resources on recovering from identity theft and alerts about prevalent scams to stay vigilant against.

The brushing scam reveals a shady side of online shopping, where deceit and manipulation undermine trust and fairness. By understanding how the scam works and its implications, consumers and stakeholders can work together to combat this fraudulent practice and maintain the honesty of the online market.

Also read: Is scam or legit?

Akash Singh

Akash is a law graduate who likes to go for bike rides on the weekends soul-searching for answers to his many existential questions. You can contact him here:

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