Free Parcel on your doorstep can make you a victim of “Brushing Scam”

Identity theft is the most popular digital fraud trend in recent years. It is laying a strong foundation with every passing day. Some of these threats are significantly harmful, whereas some scams are barely seen as a threat. In fact, people consider them more of a friendly gesture; e.g., winning lotteries, receiving complementary products, etc.

One of the most sophisticated fraud nowadays, known as “brushing scam,” can sweep you under the carpet. Businesses send goods and items to known addresses for free, creating an invoice for proof, and then post fake reviews on behalf of ‘customers’ claiming they are gratified with products received. Got confused? Picture this,

one day you find a postman on your doorstep holding a parcel with your information on it that confirms it belongs to you only. But you don’t remember ordering anything, still, you receive it. And the best part is you don’t even have to pay for it. Woah! Luck day? Maybe. How about receiving such “Free Parcels” more often? Doesn’t it sound fishy? Of course, it is a matter of concern!

And that’s how brushing scam works.

A Massachusetts couple was hit with Amazon Brushing Scam; reported CBS news

In February 2018, while talking to CBS reporter, a couple named Michael and Kelly, claimed that they have been swamped by the parcels that they didn’t even order. They said they received their first “unsolicited” package in October.

“I went out and picked up the package and Mike’s name was on it. I opened it up and I said, ‘What did you buy this stuff for?’

Michael said, I didn’t buy that!’
Kelly told CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan.

Upon asking, they said, “the first unordered package” was a phone charging hand warmer.

The couple even contacted Amazon regarding this matter but failed to provide an order number and no returning address on the received parcel, Amazon couldn’t actually help them. After that, more unordered packages started to show up on their doorstep. Those packages contained a humidifier, a flashlight, a Bluetooth speaker, a computer vacuum cleaner and some LED lights.

People mostly feel ecstatic while receiving free stuff, and scammers most likely e-commerce businesses take advantage of human nature to promote their products. In an online marketplace, specifically e-Stores, there are multiple algorithms integrated into the site. These algorithms rank and order sellers on the top on the basis of a maximum number of sales, positive feedbacks, and product reviews.

In addition, in e-commerce platforms, online customers’ reviews lay a foundation of trust for new buyers, as they want to buy from reputed sellers. Brushing is the way sellers use to rank themselves among the top of the reputed sellers on E-commerce sites. According to the Wall Street Journal,

“Brushing is already a growing ‘underground industry’ that employs sophisticated methods to cater to online sellers who want to quickly boost their online reputations.”

The team of researchers from the College of William and Mary discovered that 4109 sellers on Taobao, were able to raise their rankings 10 times faster using brushing methods instead of any other legitimate means.

All that Glitters is not Gold

If seen from one perspective, what could be better than receiving free items without having to pay for them? But it is not as simple and harmless as it seems. Free stuff is too good to be true and can be dangerous.

Firstly, the major concern is identity theft and privacy. Think about it, how can someone know your name, phone number and shipping address? Shocking, right? You never know how much of your personal information is under threat and who else has access to it. If a business can create a fake account with your identity, then it’s not much of a problem for cybercriminals to compromise identity for personal gains.

Secondly, there can be hidden financial costs with the delivered package and you may have to pay for merchandise and shipping for the products you didn’t even order.

Thirdly, you never know what the package holds. The phantom seller can ship illegal or smuggled items to your address. This can lead you to be charged with possession of contraband (e.g., banned weapons, smuggled products, or even drugs).

To conclude, just like all that glitters is not gold, free parcels aren’t a sign of friendly gesture. So, don’t get happy if you face such a situation at some point in life. Report it immediately or you might become the victim of high-risk identity theft.