Over a million UK households may have fallen victim to a scam known as ‘brushing’ after receiving Amazon packages designed to improve third-party seller rankings.
Consumer group Which one? said he was concerned about the number of households reporting that they received an Amazon mystery package at their home that they had not ordered and had not been sent by a known person.
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The watchdog believes third-party sellers are exploiting Amazon’s highly competitive search ranking system for products – which favors items with high sales volumes and good reviews – by sending items to unsuspecting people, then mistakenly recording them as a real purchase.
Households reported receiving items such as magnetic eyelashes, eyelash serum, pet and children’s toys, Bluetooth accessories, an iPhone case, a Frisbee, medical gloves and other inexpensive items. to ship in large volumes.
Some sellers take the scam even further by creating a fake Amazon account linked to the recipient’s address to “buy” the item themselves and then leave a fake positive review.
Who? said they heard from victims who had been inundated with items, from cheap electronics to beauty products, that they had no idea showing up on their doorstep.
The scam raised question marks about how their personal data was found as well as the environmental impact of the unwanted articles.
A survey of nearly 2,000 people by the Watchdog found that 4% of respondents – or, nationally, around 1.1 million people – said that they or a member of the their household had received such a package.
Of those surveyed who received a mystery package, 63% said they kept it, 28% threw it away and 16% gave it away.
Who? Policy and Advocacy Director Rocio Concha said: “Consumers should be able to be sure that the popularity and reviews of the products they buy online are genuine, so it’s troubling that third-party sellers seem to be using scams. brushing to play on Amazon Marketplace.
“Amazon needs to do more to thoroughly investigate cases of brushing scams and take strong action against sellers who try to mislead consumers. “
Amazon said, “Orchestrated by bad players who procure names and addresses from various external sources, ‘brushing’ is a pattern affecting all online marketplaces.
“We estimate that less than 0.001% of Amazon orders are impacted by brushing because Amazon has robust processes in place to prevent abuse from impacting our reviews, search rankings and other customer experiences.
“We will never stop improving the sophistication of abuse prevention in our store, and we will continue to take appropriate enforcement action, including supporting law enforcement organizations in their efforts to meet the standards. bad responsible actors. We strongly encourage those who have received unsolicited packages to report them to our customer service team so that we can thoroughly investigate and take appropriate action. “
What to do if you’ve been involved in an Amazon brushing scam:
– Report the incident to the Amazon customer service team.
– The advice on the Amazon site is to give or throw away the item you received.
– If you decide to keep or donate the item, it is worth being wary because which one? has already found security issues with some inexpensive electronics purchased from the Amazon Marketplace.
Who? interviewed 1,839 British adults between 13 and 17 August.
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