Amazon Brushing Scams: How That Unordered Package Got to You

Got a package from Amazon that you didn’t order? It could be part of an Amazon brushing scam. Here’s what you need to know.
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Did you receive a mysterious Amazon package that you didn’t order? It could be part of a brushing scam.

You might wonder how getting a free product delivered right to your doorstep could be a bad thing. Brushing scams aim to generate fake positive reviews. You get an unordered package from Amazon, usually with no return address. The scammers then write a fake review using your information to make it appear like you’re a verified buyer and boost their sales.

An Amazon brushing scam can go a long way to help a retailer get more sales if it looks like there are tons of positive reviews online. If all this still seems like nothing to be concerned about, consider all the repercussions of a stranger having your personal information and why protecting your identity is crucial.

Keep reading to learn how Amazon brushing scams work and what you can do to prevent them.

In this article
What is a brushing scam?
Why are brushing scams dangerous?
Can you keep items sent to you in a brushing scam?
How to stop brushing scams from Amazon
Brushing scam FAQs
Bottom line

What is a brushing scam?

Brushing scams happen when unethical businesses find your name and address online and use the information to send you their product. The unordered package arrives right at your door and probably doesn’t have a return address included — brushing scam packages are often sent from China. Wherever it’s from, you won’t know who sent it or why.

These packages can be anything from flower seeds to a Bluetooth speaker. It seems like a ton of effort and cost on the part of the business, but the aim is to get you to leave an online review that boosts the company’s sales and profits. Some unethical companies even post a phony review of their product and make it look like you wrote it.

By using brushing scams, unscrupulous businesses can fraudulently increase their revenue. More “sales” can also push the retailer’s product listing to the top of the marketplace search results.

Even though the company posts fake reviews, most shoppers can’t tell the difference. And when potential customers see a product with glowing reviews and plenty of sales, it may convince them to purchase the item.

Why are brushing scams dangerous?

If getting free stuff seems like a harmless surprise, you may want to think about how a random company got your name and mailing address.

Sometimes this happens when businesses get your personal data from marketing companies, online databases like Whitepages.com and LexisNexis, or even social media.

They could also get your info from a data breach, and that could include other sensitive information like your bank account info, account passwords, or Social Security number. Sensitive data and account information like this can also be for sale on the dark web, where bad actors can buy it and use it for anything from brushing schemes to credit card fraud.

What seems like a simple gift could cost you a lot of headaches if you don’t have identity theft protection.

Scammers can drain your bank accounts, sell your data to other unscrupulous businesses, and run up charges on your credit cards. Some scammers use your info to create false identities so they can take out a loan or open a fake account. Untangling all the damage can take lots of time and cause tons of frustration on your end.

Found your address, phone number, or other info online? Check out our guide on how to remove your data from the internet.

Can you keep items sent to you in a brushing scam?

The only good news in this scenario is that you can keep the items sent to you — and you don’t have to pay a dime.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the law prohibits people from sending packages you didn’t order and then charging you for them. That means if you’re the target of a brushing scam, you can keep the goods whether they’re cheap or expensive. You also don’t need to track down a return address and pay to send the package back.

Some people think if they open it, they must then pay for the item, but federal laws are in place to protect you from being charged. You should never pay for anything you didn’t order.

How to stop brushing scams from Amazon

If you’re targeted by an Amazon brushing scam or are concerned it could happen to you, there are steps you can take to prevent it.

Don’t ignore a brushing scam even if you throw away the box without opening it. If a company uses your address without your permission and you suspect any fraudulent activity, you’ll want to prevent it from going further. Taking some simple yet effective steps can ensure you stay protected against brushing scams.

1. Check your credit card bill and bank statements

Most of us think our credit cards are safe by default. We expect our banks to keep us secure, but there are lots of scammers looking for an edge to gain access to your finances.

You should monitor your credit card and bank statements and always check your charges for any suspicious activity. If you see something that doesn’t add up, contact your bank immediately.

2. Change your passwords and add 2FA

If you suspect someone gained access to your data, your first step is to change your password.

To create a good password, use a combination of letters, characters, and numbers. Try to use something that others won’t guess. That means not using your pet’s name or your favorite color.

Adding two-factor authentication (2FA) gives you another layer of security. Also called multi-factor authentication, this requires you to complete two steps to prove your identity when accessing online accounts.

What is passwordless authentication?

You may see some companies switching to passwordless logins. This means you use an alternative method of authentication to prove your identity, such as biometrics or a magic link. Learn more in our passwordless authentication guide.

3. Report brushing scams

If you’ve received a mysterious package and suspect a brushing scam, you should report it to the FTC and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

If the package comes from Amazon, you can contact Amazon customer service to let them know. You’ll need the order ID, the number of unordered packages received, and a photo of the shipping label.

If the package came from a different e-commerce retailer, you should contact its customer support center and be ready to provide information about the box that was sent to you. This information helps Amazon and other marketplaces investigate the issues.

4. Install antivirus software

Installing antivirus software is one of the best ways to keep your data safe. The software protects your device from malware and scammers.

You can usually tailor antivirus programs to scan and protect any device. Some come with additional features like password managers that can help guard your personal information by securely storing your login credentials for online accounts.

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Brushing scam FAQs


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Why is it called a brushing scam?

It’s called a brushing scam because it comes from a translation of the Chinese word for cleaning. In the U.S., money laundering is sometimes referred to as cleaning. Brushing means the fraudulent transaction was made to look clean.


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Does Amazon send free gifts?

Amazon typically doesn’t send free gifts, so if you receive one, you should check with friends and family first, then contact Amazon customer service. Third-party sellers aren’t allowed to send you unsolicited packages through Amazon.


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What happens if I get an Amazon package by mistake?

If you receive an Amazon package by mistake, you should first confirm it wasn’t sent to you by someone else. If it was delivered to you by mistake, you should contact Amazon customer service to report the accident.

Bottom line

A brushing scam is concerning because, while you may get a free product, unscrupulous companies use your personal info to create fake positive reviews in your name.

It’s important to keep your information secure and make it harder for these companies to include you in their online schemes. You can avoid brushing scams and other types of fraud by monitoring your financial accounts, creating strong passwords, and installing antivirus software.

Author Details
Patti Croft is a freelance writer who specializes in all things technology. Her expertise includes antivirus software, online security strategies, and safety practices. She has a degree in Computer Information Systems and extensive experience working in the IT field. In her spare time, Patti is an avid reader and researcher, and loves spending time with her pets. She currently shares an office with her cat, Beau.