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Mysterious, unrequested packages may be brushing scam

Posted at 9:46 PM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 23:46:17-04

SALT LAKE CITY — If you received a package in the mail and thought, "I didn't order this," you might be the victim of a brushing scam.

In 2020, it was seeds, from China. Now, people are receiving bigger items like pills and Post-It notes, said Britta Clark, Director of Communications with the Better Business Bureau.

“You basically open up this package that has something that you didn't order and it's nothing that you remember or need or have any desire to have," she said. "Every time we get a report of a scam like this, the brushing scams, it's something different every time it's always crazy and seemingly random, like seeds or pool equipment. Or things like post it notes or office supplies or clothing.”

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has been investigation brushing scams for years, said Jared Bingham, Team Leader.

“The purpose of a brushing scam is to try to artificially inflate the businesses with a sender's customer reviews and business presence to try to gain some legitimacy," he said. "Even though that's not legitimate.”

Scammers can find your address on a retail site like Amazon, send their products to your home and then leave themselves a positive review as you.

“The business is making a slight brush, a contact with them, in this very small way," said Bingham.

If you receive one of these packages and it turns out to be a scam, it's perfectly legal to take it inside and keep the items. While this may seem like a victimless crime, the reality is that your personal information may be compromised.

“You can keep it, but I would say don't just keep it and go, 'Oh great, it's my birthday today,'" said Bingham. "But actually let that be a red flag that, 'Oh, somebody's paying attention to my name and address, why?'"

To prevent yourself from brush scammers, the better business bureau recommends never sharing your address or email on public social media accounts and keeping your credit card and login information safe from retail sites. If you do fall victim to scam, notify the retailer immediately, change your account password and update your security preferences.

“You still have to be vigilant in today's world," said Bingham. "Much of what happens can be prevented if we just stay on top."