• Burton Kelso, The Technology Expert

Watch Out for 'Brushing' Scams This Holiday Season and Beyond

It's never happened to me, but I often hear stories from people who have ordered packages online and get the surprise of their life when they come home to a box sitting on their front porch. Imagine the shock (and thrill) when you come home to a package sitting in front of your house when you haven't ordered anything online. It used to be a case of FedEx or UPS accidentally leaving your neighbors package on your porch, but now that unknown package could be part of a new scam called 'Brushing'. If you start to get packages from Amazon and you didn't order them, read on to see how you can stop this scam.

It's always fun getting free stuff, but the bad thing about the 'brushing' scam is it means cyber-criminals have access to some of your personal information. As far as the scam, this is how it works:

An online retailer will create a fake account using an address gained during a data breach on Amazon or another e-commerce sites so they can buy their own products. Once the products are purchased, they send the products to a home address of an unsuspecting person. So what is the point of all of this? Well, the goal is to get positive reviews for the products they offer. Once the online retailer starts the process of buying and shipping their own goods to other people, Amazon considers them verified purchasers. Now the online retail shop can write positive reviews for their own products and move up in Amazon's search engine rankings. Products that get good reviews generate more sales. Amazon eventually shuts down these retailers who abuse the system, but with the amount of businesses that sell on Amazon, it can take them months.

What does this scam mean for you?

It can be awesome getting free stuff, but it's never good when unknown people have access to your personal information. When people outside your circle get access to your personal information, it could be the start of someone trying to steal your identity. Your information could have been accessed by cyber-criminals and sold to these bogus retailers. Alternatively, you may have purchased items from a retailer who then decides to use your information for a brushing scam.

If you receive unknown packages on your doorstep, here's what to do:

Report the fake review to the online seller and/or retailer. "Brushing" is illegal and websites are obliged to take fake reviews offline.

Change the passwords on your online accounts. If there's any chance your account was hacked, you don't want to take any chances.

Report the scam to ftc.gov. Don't let other people fall prey to the same scam!

Identity theft is a serious threat. Once a criminal has access to your personal information, they can do everything from open an account in your name and run up debt, and more. If you start to get unknown packages from Amazon or any other online store, call customer service and let them know.

Have you had free packages turn up in your name? If so, what did you do? Would you report them or keep them? Drop me a line and let me know. If you enjoyed this story, please recommend and share to help others find it.​​

If you have any questions about your technology and your devices, please feel free to contact us. Our friendly tech experts at Integral are always standing by to answer your questions and help make your technology useful and fun.

I'm the Chief Technology Expert at Integral. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn , and Twitter and watch great tech tip videos on my YouTube channel. I can be reached by email at burton@integralcomputerconsultants.com


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