What is a Brushing Scam?

Brushing is a technique used by sketchy sellers in an effort to post fake reviews of their products.

Jessica Lee
Updated 18 May 2021
What is a Brushing Scam?
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United States Online Shopping Scam Statistics 2020

$246 million lost
352k fraud reports

70% of total losses

Source: 2019-20 Consumer Sentinel Report

Sections on this page
  1. How Brushing Scams Benefit Retailers
  2. Why You Should Care
  3. What to Do If You Received Package You Didn't Order

A brushing scam is a tactic companies use to get their online product a variety of positive reviews, without actually having to sell the product to people or ask them to review it. Rather than reaching out to people, asking them to try their product, and then leave a review, companies are sending their products to consumers, unsolicited.

Afterward, the company impersonates these customers online and writes a bogus review of their product online. Some people are excited about random packages at their doorstep, especially if it means free merchandise. However, if you never ordered the package, you should be wary of its contents and how the seller discovered your personal information.

In brushing scams, a random company has enough of your personal information to send you something without your consent. Yes, they’re just writing reviews but who knows what other scam tactics they’ll use next.

How Brushing Scams Benefit Retailers

Companies like Amazon thought they were ending the era of fake product reviews when they enabled the “verified buyer” requirement to leave a review. Yet, retailers found a way to beat the system by sending their products to random people in the hopes that they wouldn't be reported. There are a couple of reasons why a company might do this:

  1. The retailer might be selling a low-quality product; they know they’ll likely receive a range of negative reviews, but they want to counteract it with more positive reviews of the product.
  2. If they don't have a lot of reviews on a product, they may want to inflate the number of positive reviews to compel buyers to purchase their product.

Why You Should Care

If you’ve ever received a free package in the mail, you may want to double-check that your personal information isn’t associated with any recent data breaches. These companies might only be writing reviews to boost product sales but there’s also a high possibility they’re selling this data to other parties as well.

Scammers know no limits and are always looking for the next best way to steal money or data from consumers. Today, you might receive a free package, but tomorrow, you might notice several unauthorized charges on your bank account.

Additionally, you shouldn’t be okay with someone impersonating you to sell a product. This is harmful to other people who may purchase the product only to realize they wasted their money.

What to Do If You Received Package You Didn't Order

If you do find yourself a victim of a brushing scam, there are a few steps you should take to ensure your safety and protect your privacy.

  • Check the return address on the package. Research the company or product and try to locate the bogus review made in your name. E-commerce giants, such as Amazon or eBay, will take claims about fraud and can get the review removed from their platform.
  • Decide what you want to do with the package itself. You have no obligation to pay for the product because you didn’t order it. Instead, you can decide what to do with the package whether you want to keep it, throw it away, or send it back.
  • Update your passwords for any of your accounts with personally identifiable information. We also suggest you close any accounts you no longer use. This can help you avoid future data breaches.
  • Regularly monitor your bank accounts and credit reports, so you’ll notice right away if any suspicious activity occurs.