Received a package you didn’t order? You might have been targeted for this scam. | #datingscams | #lovescams | #facebookscams

You got a delivery, a package you didn’t order.

There’s no return address. You haven’t been billed. You think: It’s my lucky day.

Think again.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection said Monday you’ve likely become a victim of a so-called “brushing scam,” where a recipient receives an unwanted package that turns them into a “verified buyer” — all so their name can be used to write “fake positive online reviews of merchandise” in order to fraudulently boost product ratings, which “scammers hope results” in an increase of sales of inferior goods at inflated prices.

The U.S. Postal Service, Better Business Bureau [BBB] and other organizations have all issued warnings, as well, regarding the latest scam and warn that while you won’t have to pay for the brushing delivery it might have already cost you and others, who’ve had their identities stolen or fallen victim to paying for what they believe were legitimate online products.

Here’s how it works, according to the Division of Consumer Protection:

  • You receive a package containing items you haven’t ordered. There is no return address and the sender is usually an international or third-party seller who found your mailing information online. The fact the package has been delivered turns you into a verified buyer.
  • Your information is then used to post “a false positive review of a product online” — usually on Amazon or some other online retail service — in order to “boost the 5-star ratings” of the product and “encourage legitimate shoppers” to believe the product or seller is of a higher quality than it actually is. This leads to future buyers being scammed into paying more for an inferior product or service.

So, for a small investment, scammers reap potential big pay-days, turning you into both a victim and an unwitting accomplice in furtherance of their scams.

“Online shopping and frequent deliveries offer scammers the opportunity to use your personal information for unscrupulous purposes,” Acting Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in a statement. “Receiving packages you did not order at your front steps does not mean it is your lucky day, but most likely, it is coming from someone using your personal information for their financial gain.”

The BBB called brushing “a serious problem for victims,” warning: “You are not the one who hit the jackpot” when you receive these free deliveries, adding: “A scammer is the real winner.”

And the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service, warned in an alert about brushing on their website: “We all love surprises and gifts, but when these seemingly harmless free items come from a company or retailer, they may come with a higher cost than you realize. Oftentimes, this kind of unsolicited merchandise is part of a larger brushing scam, which is illegal in the U.S. and many other countries.”

The Division of Consumer Protection said recipients of these deliveries are “under no obligation to pay for unsolicited merchandise” and can consider it a gift which can then be donated or even disposed of without any liability. But, the agency said, if the shipment involves seeds, plants or food, you should report it to the USDA or the Office of State Plant Health Director of New York. You also should notify any third-party retailer involved of the scam — entities such as Amazon, Walmart, eBay or others — and ask them to remove any reviews posted in your name. You can also notify the postal inspection service or your local law enforcement agency or police.

The Division of Consumer Protection also urges you to monitor your credit reports to ensure fraudsters and scammers have not obtained your personal information and urges that if you do have an account with a retailer from whom you’ve received a brushing scam shipment that you change your password with that retailer.

For more information on brushing scams, contact the DCP Helpline at 800-697-1220, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or visit the DCP website. The division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook.

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