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brushing scam

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A brushing scam is an exploit by a vendor used to bolster product ratings and increase visibility online by shipping an inexpensive product to an unwitting receiver and then submitting positive reviews on the receiver's behalf under the guise of a verified owner. Vendors on Amazon and other e-commerce websites use the scam increase visibility for their stores and drive further sales.

The scam became newsworthy when multiple people began receiving unsolicited products from Amazon labeled as gifts with no receipt. Items are usually smaller, such as Bluetooth speakers, phone covers, humidifiers, flashlights and light bulbs.

While brushing is more annoying than illegal, personal security is the main concern of customers who don't know how the senders obtained their names, addresses and other personal information. Customer information could have been stolen and sold to the vendor from third-party sellers. Several cases were reported to have bought items from Chinese Amazon vendor sites prior to the shipments. If vendors are not careful of state laws, owners of unsolicited products could be legally responsible for possession of contraband products.

Sites like Amazon are looking into the issue, but have yet to figure out how to combat the scam. In order to avoid purchasing products with fake reviews from brushing scams, customers should check for reviews of the same product on several other sites to verify quality.

This was last updated in March 2018

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