Brushing Scams Explained: Are You a Target?
You go to your mailbox, open it, and find a surprise package that you were not expecting. You open the parcel and in it, you see headphones, a Bluetooth speaker, or maybe even seeds that you have never ordered. Congrats! You have just fallen victim to a brushing scam; these elaborate scams are more common than you think, and here is what you need to know about brushing.
What is a Brushing Scam?
Brushing scams happen when people receive cheap packages they did not purchase. The packages arrive from an online marketplace, such as e-Bay or Amazon. The person/company who send these items are third party sellers who use marketplaces to sell products.
When performing a brushing scam, the seller sets up a fake shopper account in your name and address, purchases items from himself, and send them to you. Brushing is common in the U.S., and many people have reported getting small items that they did not purchase.
What's Wrong with Getting Free Stuff?
Getting products that you did not pay for may seem great on the surface, but brushing means that someone has your personal information. When you receive a package that you did not order and is addressed to your name, it means that your personal data was stolen from a data breach.
Scammers use social media and online marketplaces to steal people's data and use it for various scams, brushing scams included. Your personal data can also be used to open accounts in your name and for other scams that end up harming you. So, while getting free stuff in the mail is cool, with brushing it means that someone stole your personal information.
Why So Online Sellers Send Me Free Products?
It may seem strange that sellers will send you free stuff and lose money while doing so. However, brushing scams ultimately benefit the scammers, so they can take the hit; brushing scams help sellers to boost their online sales by sending people free products, and rating those items on the behalf of their brushing scam victims.
To get the necessary sales' boost, the sellers will write a five-star review from the fake accounts that they opened in your name, and voila! They have a sales' surge. Why do they do that? Because reviews from actual people seem more legitimate than reviews generated by robots. So, by convincing people that "you" gave a raving review, sellers who use crushing scams, they increase sales and use marketplaces in a harmful way.
How Do Brushing Scammers Get My Personal Information?
If you use the internet for shopping or have social media accounts, you are vulnerable to brushing scams. Whenever you open an account, even on a well-secured site, you become a possible victim of a data breach where scammers hack data sources to steal people's personal and financial data.
With brushing, hackers who stole your personal information sell it to third-party sellers who then send you packages straight to your mail.
While brushing is not a new scam, there has been a surge in brushing scam cases during COVID-19. During the year that Coronavirus has entered our lives, cyber crimes have been on the rise, including brushing. With an increasing number of companies now relying on online sales, it is likely that the number of brushing scams and other cyber scams will rise as well.
What Can I Do to Prevent Brushing?
Unfortunately, if you have experienced brushing, there is not much to be done. If someone has sent you a free package it means that your personal data has been breached and sold.
If someone has "brushed" you, you should report the incident to the FTC to prevent more people from harm. Also, you should practice caution with online sales and your social media accounts. If someone asks you for your personal information, use a people search to find out who they are. Also, do not be tempted by free giveaways that people offer you; most likely, someone is trying to get you to provide your address and personal information to perform a brushing scam or other scams.