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Did you receive an unsolicited Temu or Amazon package? It might be a brushing scam.

Received a package in the mail you didn’t order? You could be a brushing scam victim
Received a package in the mail you didn’t order? You could be a brushing scam victim 02:20

A Minnesota woman received a box filled with baby reveal balloons from Amazon. A family in Illinois had dozens of boxes from Temu delivered to their doorstep, including military hats and cameras. A Massachusetts couple noticed Amazon boxes coming to their home containing a phone-charging hand warmer, a humidifier, a flashlight and a Bluetooth speaker.

And like so many others around the U.S. who have gotten a surprise shipment of seemingly random goods, those customers had not ordered the items. 

Consumer protection experts say an unwanted e-commerce order can indicate a so-called brushing scam — a technique some unscrupulous online retailers use to generate fake reviews for their products. The offender is typically a third-party seller on a major e-commerce platform looking to achieve verified merchant status, which enables the seller to write products reviews on someone else's behalf. 

The scams often involve a foreign company obtaining someone's address that they found online and then delivering products to their home, according to the Better Business Bureau. Josh Planos, a spokesman for the BBB, advises consumers who receive unsolicited products to document the incidents and contact retailers directly to get deliveries stopped.

"They intend to make it appear that you wrote a glowing online review of their merchandise and that you are a verified buyer of that merchandise," the BBB stated in an alert. "They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products' ratings, which means more sales. The payoff is highly profitable from their perspective."

Temu said customers can receive unsolicited packages for several reasons, such as the shipper having the wrong address or intending to send the a package to a previous resident at that residence. Anyone who receives a package they didn't order should contact Temu, the company told CBS MoneyWatch, so that staff can launch an investigation into why it happened.

"In the case of brushing, Temu strictly prohibits this practice and will take action against violators," the company said in an emailed statement to CBS MoneyWatch on Monday. 

Brushing scams have been popping up nationwide for at least the past decade, with cases reported in CaliforniaColorado and Texas. The Federal Trade Commission alerted Americans about brushing scams in 2021, urging consumers to watch websites for fake reviews under their name and to report such instances right away. 

If you received an unsolicited package from Amazon, Temu or any other retailer, here are steps the BBB recommends to protect your personal information.

  • Notify the retailer and ask them to investigate any fraudulent purchases 
  • Try to contact the sender and ask them to remove any phony reviews written in your name
  • Check your online ecommerce accounts for recent orders
  • Consider having future packages sent to another location
  • Change your online account passwords
  • Monitor your credit reports and credit card statements
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