HELENA, Mont. -- It’s become a normal part of our lives; receiving packages in the mail, right on your doorstep. But what happens when you suddenly get something with your name on it that you never ordered? Well, it’s its not a gift from a family member, it could be part of an issue that’s growing around our country called brushing. And just became you receive free items, doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous to your identity online.
Ramona Turnbull from Helena first told me about an issue she was having with delivered Amazon boxes at her door. It was stuff she never even ordered, and the items are completely random. It began with a smart watch band delivery back in March, along with a Bluetooth headset. Then, a blouse, and six pairs of reading glasses in April. Two weeks later, two plastic cat toys. Finally, in late May, wall art of sailboats. All of these items were made in China, all came from Amazon. And the key thing too, all items were light in weight, and easy to fit into a box.
It appeared Ramona was the victim of brushing. She reached out to me, saying “Help Me Ben”, so here is what I found.
Let’s start with brushing; what exactly is it? According to the Better Business Bureau, it’s a scheme from usually foreign companies that are sending the items to addresses they discover online. Their intention is to make it appear as though you wrote a “glowing online review of their merchandise, and that you are a verified buyer of that merchandise.”
That fake, positive review is to try and improve their product’s rating, which can lead to better sales and better placement in Amazon’s website algorithm.
Now the BBB has three steps you can take if your address has been compromised by a brushing scheme. First, you have to notify the retailer. According to Amazon’s policies, brushing is illegal. Amazon customer service will investigate “bad actors” on your behalf, and could even shut down all packages sent to your home to stop the chain.
You can also change your passwords online. People or companies behind this scheme had to get your address, phone numbers, or other personal information some how. Keep close eye on your credit card bills as well, just in case there are any fraugulent charges.
Finally, and this might feel weird, but you are allowed to keep the merchandise you receive. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you are legally allowed to keep those unordered packages.
In this growing digital age, it’s so important to protect your private information, like phone numbers, addresses, and other personal facts about you and your family. If you think you’ve been a target of brushing, make sure to reach out to Amazon’s customer service center.
And if you have a problem that is looking for a solution, I encourage you to reach out. Visit our website, and click on the Help Me Ben tab on our website, MontanaRightNow.com