Receiving Unordered Goods? May Be a Brushing Scam

Several Corvallis residents have posted on Facebook or Nextdoor, hoping to find the real recipient of the package that they think got mistakenly shipped to them. While this is a thoughtful gesture, the attempt is oftentimes futile – the package was most likely delivered to exactly where it was supposed to go. If you’ve received something in the mail that you definitely didn’t order, it might not just be a harmless mistake, but a scam.  

Third-party sellers on Amazon, EBay, and other online marketplaces are buying their own products and sending them to real addresses. Why? Because this allows them to write a “verified” review in your name for the purpose of boosting their sales – which is illegal in the U.S. 

This is called a “brushing scam”, and it seems to be popping up everywhere – including Corvallis. 

Compromised Information 

Being involved in a brushing scam means that your information may have been compromised, and the scammer could have access to your name and address, and potentially other information. Scammers might obtain this information by hacking a website where you have made a legitimate purchase, or possibly even hacking your personal account. 

The shipments might contain the actual item to be reviewed, but can also have random items like sunglasses, power cords, or an otherwise cheap and lightweight item in place of the actual item. They just need a trackable package so it looks like a legitimate purchase – even if it isn’t the actual product they’re reviewing. 

What to Do With the Item 

Your options are limited when it comes to being on the receiving end of a brushing scam, but below are a few actions you can take with the contents of the shipment. 

Return it to the sender: If you haven’t opened it, the package can be returned via USPS at no cost to you. The issue is that you can only return to the sender if there’s a return address – and these boxes often don’t include one. 

Keep it: If you happen to like the contents of the package, feel free to keep it. Legally, you can keep any unsolicited merchandise without having to pay for it. 

Throw it away or donate it: There’s no harm in getting rid of the item if it’s of no use to you. Maybe someone else would like it, and the money it’s sold for at a thrift store could help someone in need. 

What to Do With Your Accounts 

The fact that an item was sent to you means that somewhere along the line your information was hacked. There are a few things you can do, listed below, to protect yourself. 

Change your account passwords: If the item sent to you comes from a verified vendor such as Amazon, then your account details have likely been stolen. You should immediately change your password for the store or website from which the item was shipped.  

Monitor your credit card bills: Usually, you aren’t charged for any products you receive through brushing scams. But you should still regularly check your credit card bills and bank statements in the chance that the scammer has your card information. 

File a fraud report: Go on the retailer’s website (Amazon, EBay, etc.) and file a fraud report. You can also ask them to remove any fake reviews in your name. 

By Momoko Baker