PROVICENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning online shoppers of a so-called “brushing” scam.
Here’s how the scam works: Victims suddenly start receiving boxes of unordered merchandise from online retailers such as Amazon.
While this might not sound like such a bad thing, BBB said it can serve as a warning that someone out there has your personal information.
The BBB said there usually isn’t a return address listed on the package in an effort to keep the victim in the dark.
The scammers are usually third-party sellers, who use their victims’ addresses and accounts to write fake positive reviews for their products.
Sellers use this technique to not only increase their sales numbers without losing money, but also to make their product look better than it actually is, according to the BBB.
“Increased sales numbers, even though padded with fake purchases, look good for the company and help lead to more sales,” BBB explained.
12 Responds first learned of the scam when a Rhode Island man reported receiving a package of merchandise he didn’t order. When he brought that package to his local post office, an employee there warned him that it might be a sign of “brushing.”
BBB’s Paula Fleming said brushing scams are becoming more common.
“We have seen an uptick in [brushing scams] here in New England,” Fleming said.
Amazon said in a statement that it regularly investigates reports of “brushing” and “takes action on bad actors who violate [their] policies, including suspending or removing selling privileges and withholding payments.”
When asked what online shoppers can do, Amazon urged potential victims to notify them immediately.
The BBB suggests online shoppers change their passwords to ensure that their accounts are secure.
But what about the merchandise?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said anyone who receives unordered merchandise is legally allowed to keep it if they want to.
“By law, companies can’t send unordered merchandise to you, then demand payment,” the FTC explained. “That means you never have to pay for things you get but didn’t order. You also don’t need to return unordered merchandise. You’re legally entitled to keep it as a free gift.”