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Watch out for the 'brushing' scam

Posted at 3:02 PM, Dec 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-21 19:06:03-05

BILLINGS — Several people in Billings recently received packages that they did not order, and soon learned that they had been targeted as potential victims of what is known as the "brushing" scam. Watch the video above to learn more.


The U.S. Postal Service website provides the following information about such scams:

This is how it works.
A person receives packages or parcels containing various sorts of items which were not ordered or requested by the recipient. While the package may be addressed to the recipient, there is not a return address, or the return address could be that of a retailer. The sender of the item(s) is usually an international, third-party seller who has found the recipient’s address online. The intention is to give the impression that the recipient is a verified buyer who has written positive online reviews of the merchandise, meaning: they write a fake review in your name. These fake reviews help to fraudulently boost or inflate the products’ ratings and sales numbers, which they hope results in an increase of actual sales in the long-run. Since the merchandise is usually cheap and low-cost to ship, the scammers perceive this as a profitable pay-off.

This is why it’s bad.
While it may appear to be a victimless crime—you did after all get some free stuff—the reality is that your personal information may be compromised. Often scammers obtain personal information through nefarious means and with ill-intentions, and use it for a number of scams and other illicit activities in the future.

Your fake review may prompt people to purchase worthless stuff. In other instances, bad actors are using a person’s address and account information to receive merchandise then steal it from the home before the resident is able to intercept it.

Follow the tips below to keep your personal information safe and be aware of what to do in the event you receive unsolicited merchandise.

  • Don’t pay for the merchandise; do not be swindled or talked into paying for it.
  • Return to sender: If marked with a return address, and it is UNOPENED, you may mark it “RETURN TO SENDER” and USPS will return it at no charge to you.
  • Throw it away: If you opened it, and do not wish to keep it, you may simply dispose of it in the garbage, as long as it is safe to do so.
  • Keep it: If you opened it and you like it, you may keep it. By law, you may keep unsolicited merchandise and are under no obligation to pay for it.
  • Change your account passwords: Your personal information may have been compromised.
  • Closely monitor your credit reports and credit card bills.
  • Notify the retailer: If unsolicited merchandise arrives from Amazon, eBay, or another third-party seller, go to that company’s website and file a fraud report. Ask the company to remove any fake reviews under your name.

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