If you’ve ever randomly received a small, lightweight item in the mail from an Amazon seller or some other shipping mishap, it might have not been an accident after all. Cybersecurity experts are warning that a new type of bizarre online shopping scam has these phantom deliveries as a byproduct of a dishonest review practice known as “brushing.”
Here’s what you need to know about these phantom packages, “brushing” and online shopping safety.
Brushing is a dishonest practice in which sellers on sites like Amazon pay people to write bogus positive reviews for various items. However, in order to leave feedback on Amazon, a package has to be delivered to someone. You can’t just write a review for the product without a product having been shipped. This normally prevents scummy behavior like sellers paying for positive reviews, but brushers have found a way around this.
What they do is submit orders for items that they want to write a review for as a gift and address it to any random address they find online. Then, they package something insignificant and inexpensive, like a hairbrush or a pair of nail clippers, and ship that instead of the item they’re reviewing. Regardless of the contents of the package, however, the transaction creates a tracking number that Amazon’s system can use to identify when the item has been delivered.
Once delivered, the “brusher” can then leave a review. This is, without fail, a glowing five-star review for some expensive item that is likely not all that great.
If you’ve been the recipient of one of these items, don’t panic. Odds are good that your accounts aren’t compromised and you’re in no danger of being scammed yourself. The real scam going on is the fake reviews! As such, it’s vitally important that you’re vigilant when shopping online. Even a wave of five-star reviews from verified accounts doesn’t necessarily mean an item is actually quality, it could just be benefitting from a glut of brushers faking the feedback.
When you’re shopping online, trust the word of friends and acquaintances you know in the real world over the reviews of faceless strangers you’ve never met. Do your research, especially when you’re about to make big purchases. And, most importantly, try to make sure you’re not putting your address all over the internet, as there are much more insidious scams you could fall victim to than getting a disposable razer in the mail.