Amazon is one of the most popular online shopping destinations, but did you know that it's also a prime target for scammers? There are a number of different scams targeting Amazon shoppers, but one of the most common is the brushing scam. Learn what this scam is and how to protect yourself from it.
What Are Amazon Brushing Scams?
Amazon brushing scams are a type of eCommerce fraud in which sellers create fake customer accounts to positively review their own products. These bogus reviews can mislead other shoppers and impact their purchasing decisions.
In some cases, the seller may ship an empty box or a low-quality item to the fake account, and then promptly refunds them. This is done so that they can create a verified purchase, which lends legitimacy to their fraudulent reviews.
These kinds of scams undermine consumer trust and jeopardize the integrity of the Amazon marketplace. 3PL delivery services can be particularly vulnerable to this type of fraud because they typically require little verification from the buyer before shipping out an order.
Why Is It Called Brushing?
Brushing scams are called Brushing because the scammer will "brush" their products past the quality control inspection of a 3rd party logistics (3PL) company, and then resell those products to Amazon customers.
Since Amazon has such high standards for product quality, any products that don't meet those standards are immediately rejected and sent back to the seller. So by using a 3PL company that doesn't have such high standards, the scammer can brush their products by and sell them on Amazon as if they were legitimate.
How do Brushing Scams Work?
In a typical brush scam, the seller will offer a high-priced product at a deep discount. When the buyer attempts to purchase the product, they are redirected to a different page or site where they are asked to enter their credit card information. The scammers then use this information to make fraudulent charges.
This type of scam is commonly referred to as a "brushing scam" because the scammers will often use the name of an established company like Amazon in order to make it appear legitimate. In some cases, the buyer may even receive an authentic-looking order confirmation email from Amazon. However, if you hover over the link in the email, you'll see that it doesn't actually go to Amazon's website.
Brushing Scams work as follows: Unordered or random amazon packages or other large companies arrive at your door without your permission. If you received amazon packages you didnt order.
The Purpose of Brushing Scams
According to the Better Business Bureau, the companies sending these items are simply attempting to improve their product ratings on ecommerce sites. This also leads to an increase in online sales. They are using your address, which they most likely discovered online, to make it appear that you are a legitimate buyer of the merchandise. Companies then post fake online ratings and reviews praising the products they sent, reviews that you allegedly wrote.
However, a large number of online reviews can significantly boost sales. Obtaining those reviews is thought to be worth the effort of mailing products to fictitious customers. This is why brushing schemes frequently involve lightweight products that are less expensive to ship.
To review a product on Amazon, you must first purchase it. Then, Amazon identifies you as a verified buyer. You can post online reviews about your ordered product once you've earned this label. Likewise, you become a verified buyer when a company sends you a product without first having you order it. They can then use your name to post a positive review about their products online.
These companies are also fraudulently increasing their sales numbers by running brushing scams. However, the Better Business Bureau points out that even bogus sales look good for the companies that send these products. Increased sales may persuade other customers to spend more money on the company's products.
What To Do If You Are A Victim Of Brushing?
If you have been a victim of brushing, there are a few things you can do to report it and get help.
Reach out to Customer Service
First, if you made your purchase through an ecommerce site like Amazon, eBay, or Alibaba, you should reach out to their customer service team and let them know what happened. They may be able to refund your purchase or give you some other form of compensation.
Contact the 3PL
Secondly, if the item you purchased was shipped via a 3pl (third party logistics) company like UPS or FedEx, you should contact them and explain the situation. They may be able to track down the person who sent the package and take appropriate action.
Contact your Bank
Lastly, if you suspect that your personal information (like your credit card number) may have been compromised, you should contact your bank or credit card company immediately. They will be able to help you cancel your card and issue a new one if necessary.
Most Common Amazon Scams and How to Avoid Them
Let's examine the most common - and threatening - ways Amazon fraud can strike and provide some tips to keep Amazon fraudsters at bay.
Gift Card Scams
Often, the message includes a call to action, such as the fraudster claiming he is about to lose his home or car and offering goods that can be purchased at a steep discount with Amazon gift cards and gift cards sold on Amazon. Please don't be taken in by it. Gift cards are to be used only on Amazon and cannot be used to make legitimate payments to other companies or individuals.
To avoid this con: Ignore the caller or emailer and never use Amazon gift cards unknown sender with companies or people not affiliated with Amazon.com. Furthermore, never give an Amazon gift card claim code to someone you don't know - they'll use that to steal the gift card before you can get law enforcement involved.
Bogus Online Listings
In this scam, fraudsters pose as Amazon sellers and approach potential victims with deeply discounted goods and services. The catch is that the seller will only accept Amazon gift cards as payment for the purchase. So when you pay for the goods, they never arrive, and you can't contact the seller to get your money back.
To avoid this scam, only make Amazon purchases through the Amazon platform, either through the website or the mobile app. Because no legitimate Amazon purchase can take place outside of the Amazon platform, if contacted by a fake Amazon seller, delete emails and hang up the phone.
The Amazon Job Offer Scam
Amazon job scammers take advantage of the high demand for Amazon jobs by posting false job postings or calling potential job applicants with offers to work for Amazon. The catch to this con? The fraudster will demand a processing or finder's fee upfront, usually in the form of a credit card or even an Amazon gift card.
To avoid this scam, Amazon.com jobs are always posted on Amazon.com/jobs, and there is never an application or interview fee.
The Amazon Phishing Scam
A scammer contacts you via email, claiming to be an Amazon.com customer service representative. They'll mention that your personal information on the Amazon website needs to be updated or that a recent purchase can't be completed until you confirm your personal information. Then, they will ask you to click on a link and transmit data, which will then direct that data to a fraudster's digital device, resulting in the loss of critical personal financial information and paving the way for financial fraud.
To avoid this scam, here's what Amazon.com says about phishing fraud on its website. "Amazon never sends an unsolicited email requesting sensitive personal information such as your social security number, tax ID, bank account number, credit card information, ID questions such as your mother's maiden name, or password. If you receive a fake email, please report it as soon as possible."
The Discount Voucher Scam
"This $1,000 Amazon gift card is reserved for you," the message frequently says. However, instead of receiving the gift card, you are simply providing the scammer with your personal information, which they will use to steal your identity or access your financial accounts and steal your money.
To avoid this con: Unsolicited and by email, Amazon does not provide deeply discounted "thank you" offers or $1,000 gift cards. Simply delete any suspicious emails that offer Amazon rewards.
The "Write An Amazon.Com Review" Scam
Usually delivered via email, the message offers monetary compensation for writing an Amazon.com review. However, in reality, the recipient is directed to a bogus Amazon.com website (that looks eerily similar to the actual Amazon.com website), where their passwords, usernames, and other personal information is stolen and used to commit identity theft.
To avoid this scam, keep in mind that Amazon does not pay people to write site reviews and will never ask for your password or username in any customer service situation. If you receive an email asking you to "write an Amazon review," delete it.
How To Spot A Scam Before You Purchase Anything On Amazon
Note how long the Seller has Been in Business
Before placing an order, read multiple positive reviews that indicate it's a reputable source. If the seller has thousands of listings, this could be a red flag, especially if the account was just added to the site.
Check the seller's refund and return policy carefully
If they don't have one listed, that's a huge red flag. A lot of scammers will try to get you to purchase an item without a return policy so that they can keep your money.
Inspect the Listing Carefully
If an item is listed at an incredibly low price, it's probably too good to be true. Do some research on comparable items to see if the price is realistic. Also, be sure to check the photos carefully. If they look like they were taken from a different website or they're blurry, it's probably a scam.
Beware of Emails Asking for Personal Information
If you receive an email from someone claiming to be from Amazon asking for personal information, it's a scam. Amazon will never ask for your password or credit card information via email.
Watch Out for Fake Shipping Notifications
Scammers will sometimes send fake shipping notifications to try to get you to click on a link that will install malware on your computer. Be very careful about clicking on links in emails, even if they look like they're from Amazon.
Check the URL Carefully Before Entering Personal Information
If you're directed to a website that doesn't have "https" in the URL, it's not a secure site and you shouldn't enter any personal information. Also, be sure to check that the URL says "amazon.com" and not something similar like "amzon.com" or "amaz0n.com."
Check the Location of the Seller
If the seller is located in a country other than the one you're in, be extra careful. It's not impossible to buy from international sellers, but it is more difficult to get your money back if there's a problem.
Call Amazon Customer Service if You're Unsure
If you're ever unsure about a website or email you've received, you can always call Amazon customer service at 1-888-280-4331 and they can help you figure out if it's a scam.
Tips For Avoiding These Scams In The Future
Use the Amazon A-Z Program
Amazon offers a program called the A-Z Guarantee, which provides buyers with protection against fraud. This guarantee covers up to $2,500 of your purchase price, and you can file a claim if you don't receive your item or if it's significantly different from the listing.
Pay With A Credit Card
When possible, pay with a credit card. This will give you additional protection in case you need to file a dispute with your credit card company. According to one of the Amazon package scam victims, a note on the seller's page instructed buyers to email first before ordering. She did, and the official-looking email instructed her to purchase the product using an Amazon gift card code—but the whole thing was a ruse. (Note: Amazon has caught on to the gift card scam and has provided instructions on how to avoid it.)
Be Wary Of Third-Party Sellers
One of the best ways to avoid scams is to only buy from Amazon.com directly. Third-party sellers are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as Amazon, so it's easier for scammers to set up fake accounts.
Keep Your Software Up To Date
One of the best ways to protect yourself from scammers is to make sure your computer's security software is up to date. This will help prevent malware from being installed on your computer without you realizing it.
Learn to tell if an email or website is from Amazon
When you're shopping on Amazon, you can tell that you're on a secure website if the URL in the address bar starts with "https://" and there is a lock icon next to it. You can also tell that an email is from Amazon if it comes from an address that ends in "@amazon.com."
How To Get Your Money Back If You've Been Scammed
If you've been scammed, the first thing you should do is contact Amazon customer service. They may be able to help you get your money back or at least figure out what happened.
1. Go to Your Orders.
2. Locate the order.
3. Select Problem with the order.
4. Select your Problem from the list.
5. Select Request refund.
6. Enter your comments in the text box.
6. Select Submit.
It can take Amazon up to one week to review requests. They will let you know about our decision using the email address associated with your account. You can also file a claim with your credit card company if you used a credit card to make the purchase. You may be able to get a refund that way.
Finally, you can also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a complaint. The FTC is the government agency that deals with consumer protection, and they may be able to help you get your money back as well.
The Amazon brushing scam is a serious issue that can cost businesses thousands of dollars. But with a little knowledge and preparation, you can avoid becoming a victim. At Simpl Fulfillment, we want to help you stay safe online. If you need help fulfilling orders, please get in touch with us – we’d be happy to assist you.