Clark Howard

Amazon warning: Beware of deliveries you didn't order

Have you heard of a new Amazon package scam called “brushing?”

This crime involves having packages you didn’t order from Amazon show up on your doorstep.

Now, you might be reading this thinking, “Wow, that would be a great problem to have!” But there’s a reason why it’s more troubling than it seems at first glance…

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‘Brushing’ scam hits couple’s doorstep

We’re beginning to see reports that Amazon customers are the targets of a hot new package delivery scam.

It all started innocently enough for a Massachusetts couple named Michael and Kelly Gallivan when a phone charging hand warmer showed up unannounced about five months ago. The only problem was the Gallivans didn't order it, CBS News reports.

So the couple called Amazon hoping to return the wayward package. But with no order number and no return address on the rogue delivery, Amazon couldn’t help them.

After that, more packages they didn’t order started showing up once or twice a week. Subsequent shipments included everything from a humidifier, flashlight and Bluetooth speaker to a computer vacuum cleaner and LED lights.

It’s all part of a new international e-commerce scam called “brushing.” Brushing involves overseas sellers purchasing their own goods through fake buyer accounts and having the merchandise shipped to real U.S. addresses.

The end goal is for the seller to be able to pose as a verified purchaser and write a glowing review of their own product. Gaming the reviews system in this way pushes their products up higher in Amazon search results — regardless of whether the product is “good” or not.

(Editor's note: is a free website that will help you double check for any fake reviews.)

Amazon told CBS News that it investigates all customer reports of unsolicited packages like those made by the Gallivans. If vendors or reviewers are found abusing the review system, Amazon will shut their accounts down.

Here’s why brushing is so dangerous

Brushing might seem harmless at first glance. But the danger is really threefold.

First, if you’re “brushed,” it indicates that info like your name, shipping address and possibly phone number has been compromised. The Gallivans think their info was commandeered by criminals when Michael purchased a guitar accessory from a Chinese seller on Amazon.

Shortly after placing that order, the rogues packages began showing up. By the way, the couple says they plan to give away as much of the unwanted merchandise as possible.

Second, and even more insidiously, what happens if a phantom seller ships contraband to your home? You could find yourself charged with possession of illegal drugs or banned weapons — not the phantom seller.

And finally, when crime like this goes on, there is the unseen cost. Somebody has to pay for the lost merchandise and the shipping costs. And that person is likely to be you, the Amazon customer, in higher costs for the things you buy online!

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