What could be better than opening the mailbox or the front door and finding an unexpected package? We all love surprises and gifts, but when these seemingly harmless free items come from a company or retailer, they may come with a higher cost than you realize. Oftentimes, this kind of unsolicited merchandise is part of a larger brushing scam, which is illegal in the U.S. and many other countries.
This is how it works.
A person receives packages or parcels containing various sorts of items which were not ordered or requested by the recipient. While the package may be addressed to the recipient, there is not a return address, or the return address could be that of a retailer. The sender of the item(s) is usually an international, third-party seller who has found the recipient’s address online. The intention is to give the impression that the recipient is a verified buyer who has written positive online reviews of the merchandise, meaning: they write a fake review in your name. These fake reviews help to fraudulently boost or inflate the products’ ratings and sales numbers, which they hope results in an increase of actual sales in the long-run. Since the merchandise is usually cheap and low-cost to ship, the scammers perceive this as a profitable pay-off.
This is why it’s bad.
While it may appear to be a victimless crime—you did after all get some free stuff—the reality is that your personal information may be compromised. Often scammers obtain personal information through nefarious means and with ill-intentions, and use it for a number of scams and other illicit activities in the future.
Your fake review may prompt people to purchase worthless stuff.
In other instances, bad actors are using a person’s address and account information to receive merchandise then steal it from the home before the resident is able to intercept it.
This is what to do.
Follow the tips below to keep your personal information safe and be aware of what to do in the event you receive unsolicited merchandise.