Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Amazon’s “Brushing” Scam

Susan Hogan and Meredith Royster:

Seventeen Amazon packages have been delivered to Catherine Mayfield’s home in Temple Hills, Maryland, since October. She didn’t order any of them.


According to Alex Hamerstone, a cybercrime expert from TrustedSec, sellers do this to boost their ratings. They make a fake account using a real name and address they can easily find online. The seller buys the product from themselves and sends it to the address.

“In order for you to have a validated purchase so that your rating carries more weight, they actually have to ship something,” said Hamerstone. The seller then writes a fake review and gives themselves five stars.

Via Dave Mark:

Amazon created this process. Surely they could tweak their system so verified purchases are actually “verified”. Make it easy to report unordered packages, then have Amazon note on the product pages that the product has an active brushing scam.


6 Comments RSS · Twitter

Dave Mark has it right. Someone receiving a package should be able to report it to Amazon. They can provide the tracking number from the label, which will allow Amazon to identify the account that made the purchase. They might also be able to correlate multiple fake accounts that share the same payment method in order to identify the scammer.

If one account ends up with lots of complaints from a wide variety of different people, then Amazon can either shut down the account or (if that's too drastic), remove or flag their product reviews.

@David At present, Amazon won’t even tell me who sent a package to my address if they forgot to include a gift message.

Which could be a real problem if, say, a public official got sent a lot of Amazon “présents”... could be viewed as accepting corruption, if there is no easy way to return them.

Yes, Amazon won't tell you who sent the package. But they know and they can look it up from the tracking number, which you do have.

In other words, they can get the information they need, if they actually want to do something.

>Make it easy to report unordered packages, then have
>Amazon note on the product pages that the product has
>an active brushing scam.

And then people will fake-order competitors' products. It's a double-win: they get to write poor reviews, and if the order is reported, the product is marked as being involved in a scam.

I got a random package … a made-in-china dog toy that seemed like it was something like this. (I have no dog.) I tried to report it to Amazon, who said maybe it was a gift someone sent. A week or two later my dad told me my aunt had sent a new baby gift to me (I do have a new baby ;-) and got that package) and then placed another order without changing the address back to her own. It would have been nice if Amazon could have told me she ordered it.

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