State Officials Issue Brushing Scam Alert

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ALBANY, NY (WENY) – The Division of Consumer Protection is urging all New Yorkers to be aware of Brushing Scams.

In a press release from the Division of Consumer Protection, it states that these scams have been happening all throughout the country in which consumers receive a package in the mail that they did not order.

Brushing scams are meant to target a recipient and turn them into a ‘verified buyer’ with the purpose of stealing their identity and writing fake positive reviews for online merchandise. The fake reviews help to boost the products’ ratings and ultimately increase sales.

How the Scam Works:

A person receives a package(s) containing items that were not ordered or requested by the recipient. While the package may be addressed to the recipient, there is no return address, or the return address could be that of a retailer. The sender of the item is usually an international, third-party seller who has found the recipient’s address online.

Successful delivery of the item then turns the recipient into a verified buyer on online marketplaces. The scammer uses the verified buyer’s information to then post a false positive review of a product online and boost the 5-star ratings of the product, encouraging legitimate shoppers that the product advertised has received more positive ratings than it has. Since the merchandise actually received is another product that is cheaper to ship, the scammers perceive this as a profitable pay-off.

As internet shopping has become very popular in recent years, most e-commerce sites rate sellers by multiple criteria and display these seller ratings to customers. It is also a known fact that a good rating can boost sales, and sellers know how important a good review can push ratings for their products. Oftentimes, the number of items sold is usually an important factor in that rating. To give some credibility to reviews, often these brushing scams are aimed to justify a fake review online.

To avoid being victims of brushing scams, the Division of Consumer Protection offers the following tips:

  • You don’t have to pay for it. Federal law may allow recipients to keep items they received but did not order. Recipients are under no obligation to pay for unsolicited merchandise and can consider it a gift. If you don’t want the item, you can donate it or simply dispose of it and do not have to return it.
  • Report it. If the item received is organic (seeds, plants or food), report it to the USDA. Unsolicited seeds or plants should not be planted as they may be invasive plants, noxious weeds or carry diseases that could cause damage to economically important crops. Seeds may be sent to the address below for destruction. Please ensure the seed package is sealed tightly and mail the seeds, the original packaging, your contact information, and any additional details, to.


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