Have you received a package in the mail, but didn't order anything? You might be the victim of a 'brushing' scam, where your details might be used to create a fake review for an item in an online store.

What is ‘Brushing’?

  • Brushing is a deceitful technique sometimes used in e-commerce to boost a seller's ratings by creating fake orders.

  • Although it is often used to boost ratings for an online seller, sometimes free items may actually be a warning sign about a data breach or a signal that your data may have been compromised.

How does the scam work?

You receive a package or parcel containing an item which was not ordered or requested by you. Often it is a small, inexpensive item. While the package may be addressed to you, there is no return address, or the return address might just be that of a retailer.

The sender of the item(s) is usually an international, third-party seller who has found your 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.

What to do if you receive an unsolicited package

  • Check if the package has your details written on it as some packages may be accidentally dropped off at the wrong location.

  • If your name is on the package, and you have definitely not ordered it, check with your family and friends to see if anyone has ordered you a gift.

  • It is best not to open the package. Instead, write Return to Sender on the box and take it to the Post Office.

  • You can also report unsolicited packages to the retailer (e.g Amazon) named on the parcel.

  • Your information may have been compromised so take action and change passwords and security settings on online marketplace accounts.

Tips for using online marketplaces

  • Use secure payment methods such as Paypal or Apple Pay rather than providing credit card details directly to a supplier.

  • Review your account security settings online.

  • Search independent reviews on sellers rather than relying on reviews on their own websites.

Tools for checking on the safety of your personal information

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime, in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: ABC, Best Life Online, Riotact, Scamwatch

Image credit: ANIRUDH, Unsplash.

All content in Sonder's Help Centre is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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