Received an Unexpected Package? You Could Potentially Be a Brushing Scam Victim

Words by Retail Bum

Received an Unexpected Package? You Could Potentially Be Targeted by a Brushing Scam
Received an Unexpected Package? You Could Potentially Be Targeted by a Brushing Scam

Have you ever found yourself unexpectedly receiving a package in the mail that you never placed an order for? While it may initially seem like a pleasant surprise, you should remain cautious about it as you could be a victim of a brushing scam.

The deceptive practice is not a new phenomenon. Some might remember the instances during the pandemic when people were mysteriously receiving unsolicited packages of random seeds. These incidents are connected to a relatively new type of scam and should serve as a red flag indicating that your personal information might have been compromised.

What are Brushing Scams?

The term “brushing” refers to the practice of sending unsolicited packages to unsuspecting individuals, often containing low-value or even completely random items. Oftentimes, the sender of the mysterious package is an international or third-party seller who will find the recipient’s address online using illegitimate means and use their names to write fake reviews. They intend to create a false impression that the receiver is a verified buyer who has posted a positive review for the product. 

In other words, the motive behind these mysterious deliveries is not generosity but a calculated effort to generate fake product reviews.

How Brushing Scams Work

  1. Phony Reviews: Merchants engage in brushing scams to manufacture a false sense of popularity and authenticity for their products. By creating fake accounts or using existing ones, they leave glowing reviews for the items they want to promote. These fictitious testimonials can then influence potential buyers into believing that the product is of high quality and has satisfied numerous customers.
  2. Boosted Sales Rankings: Ecommerce platforms often prioritize products with high sales volumes and positive reviews, placing them prominently in search results. Merchants who engage in brushing scams aim to inflate their sales figures artificially, ensuring better visibility and a competitive edge over legitimate competitors.
  3. Misleading Consumers: Brushing scams create a distorted market perception, as products with artificially inflated reviews and rankings might not actually deliver the promised value. Consumers who rely on these manipulated metrics may end up purchasing subpar or even unsafe products.

Impact on Legitimate Sellers and Consumers

The proliferation of brushing scams poses numerous challenges for both honest sellers and well-intentioned buyers:

  1. Unfair Competition: Legitimate sellers are forced to compete with products benefiting from fraudulent reviews, undermining their hard-earned reputation and potentially impacting their sales.
  2. Trust Erosion: Consumers may become skeptical of online reviews altogether, undermining the credibility of a system meant to assist them in making informed decisions.
  3. Wasted Resources: Unsolicited packages and fake reviews generate waste, both in terms of physical products and digital clutter.

Combating Brushing Scams

Ecommerce platforms and regulatory authorities have begun taking measures to address the menace of brushing scams:

  1. Review Verification: Platforms are investing in algorithms and manual checks to identify and remove suspicious reviews, ensuring that only genuine customer feedback is displayed.
  2. Account Authentication: Requiring stricter identity verification for account creation can deter scammers from creating fake profiles to leave reviews.
  3. Consumer Awareness: Educating consumers about brushing scams empowers them to recognize unsolicited packages and report suspicious activity.

Why These Types of Scams Have Emerged

Ecommerce platforms thrive on the power of testimonials, as positive reviews can translate into increased sales and trust among potential buyers. However, this reliance on customer feedback has led to the rise of a new and deceptive strategy known as “brushing scams.” This nefarious technique allows unscrupulous merchants to post manipulate reviews, distort market perceptions, and ultimately boost their sales figures.

The Role of Customer Reviews in eCommerce

Customer reviews have evolved from being a mere afterthought to an essential cornerstone of modern eCommerce. Shoppers increasingly depend on these insights to make informed purchasing decisions. Positive reviews build credibility and trust, transforming potential customers into actual buyers. Conversely, negative reviews can deter consumers and lead to reduced sales for a product or brand.

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