Amazon scam warning: Beware of deliveries you didn’t order

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Amazon packages on front doorstep
Image Credit: Dreamstime

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

This scheme involves receiving packages you didn’t order from Amazon that just show up on your doorstep.

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…

Amazon brushing: Why getting unexpected Amazon packages is not a good thing

The Amazon brushing scam might seem harmless at first, but the danger is really threefold.

First, it means that your name, shipping address and possibly phone number is likely to have been already compromised. It’s possible that this might happen when you’re dealing with less-than-reputable third-party sellers on Amazon.

Second, and even more concerning, 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.

Finally, a crime like this also has a hidden financial cost. Somebody has to pay for the lost merchandise and the shipping costs, right? That person is likely to be you, the Amazon customer — in the form of higher costs for the things you legitimately order online!

Amazon brushing scam hits couple’s doorstep

We’re seeing reports that Amazon customers are the targets of this relatively 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 last year. 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.

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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.

What’s going on when you receive a package you didn’t order?

The end game here in many cases 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: FakeSpot.com 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. The company will shut down the accounts of vendors or reviewers found abusing the review system.

Another possible explanation of Amazon brushing is simply that it’s a set-up for porch pirates. Once the items hit your doorstep, they spring into action and snatch up the surprise packages.

Final thought

You’re allowed to keep packages you didn’t order that come in your name. But Amazon brushing isn’t really the victimless crime. To recap, it likely means three things:

  • There’s probably been a breach of your customer info
  • You’re at the mercy of the scammers because you have no control over what you receive
  • We all wind up paying for brushing through higher prices

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for ways to keep packages safe after they’re delivered to your doorstep, be sure to check out our article on 5 tips to keep your packages safe from porch pirates.

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