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Brushing Scam

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.



Brushing Scam PSA

Have you received a package in the mail, but didn't order anything? Watch this video and visit our website to learn about brushing scams before you get taken.

Protect Yourself from Brushing Scams

  • Don’t pay for the merchandise

    Do not be swindled or talked into paying for it.

  • Return to sender

    If marked with a return address, and it is UNOPENED, you may mark it “RETURN TO SENDER” and USPS will return it at no charge to you.

  • Throw it away

    If you opened it, and do not wish to keep it, you may simply dispose of it in the garbage, as long as it is safe to do so.

  • Keep it

    If you opened it and you like it, you may keep it. By law, you may keep unsolicited merchandise and are under no obligation to pay for it.

  • Change your account passwords

    Your personal information may have been compromised.

  • Closely monitor

    Closely monitor your credit reports and credit card bills.

  • Notify authorities

    If the merchandise is organic (i.e., seeds, food, plants) or an unknown liquid or substance, notify the proper authorities and follow their instructions.

  • Suspicious contents

    If you are wary of the contents inside an unsolicited package, please follow the instructions on our SUSPICIOUS MAIL page.

  • Notify the retailer

    If unsolicited merchandise arrives from Amazon, eBay, or another third-party seller, go to that company’s website and file a fraud report. Ask the company to remove any fake reviews under your name.


If you’ve encountered this, please report the crime.

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