What to do if you receive a mystery package you didn’t order

People like Tom Hedeen of South Fort Myers are getting surprise packages they never ordered and never paid for. It’s called a “brushing” scam.

When Hedeen went to his mailbox last week, he said he found a package he wasn’t expecting from an unknown, Chinese address.

“It’s almost like Christmas,” he said. “’Oh, what did I order?’”

But, inside the package, was a true surprise. They were sun glasses Hedeen said he never ordered.

“As you can see since, I wear glasses,” Hedeen said. “There’s no reason I would order a pair of sunglasses.”

How brushing works

“By definition, ‘brushing’ is receiving an ordered merchandise to your home that you did not expect,” said Brian Ogelsby with Better Business Bureau.

The BBB says companies, usually foreign, third-party sellers are sending the items are simply using addresses they discovered online. Their intention is to make it appear as though you wrote a glowing online review of their merchandise, and that you are a verified buyer. They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products’ ratings, which means more sales for them. The payoff is highly profitable from their perspective.

A possible silver lining is that the government says you can keep whatever is sent.

We’ve also seen “brushing” scams with seeds from China recently. Because those mystery seeds could be invasive plants, the state is asking you to set them aside them if you get any and call Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

What to do if this happens to you

If this happens to you, Ogelsby also suggests changing all your passwords. He also suggests reviewing your credit card statement and Amazon, depending on where the package came from.

“Make sure there’s no bogus charges. And, if there are, make sure you dispute those with your credit card company,” Ogelsby said.

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about “brushing” scams plaguing Amazon and other business.

  • Notify the retailer. Brushing and fake reviews are against Amazon’s policies, so contact Amazon Customer Service if this happens to you and the product appears to come from Amazon. They will investigate and take action on the bad actor. Go directly to Amazon’s website to get their contact information. The company also takes security seriously and encourages customers to report fraudulent purchases or other security issues. If the preference is to contact them by phone; be cautious of searching for support phone numbers.
  • Change your account passwords. This may be a sign that personal information has been compromised and to improve account security, keep a close eye on credit reports and credit card bills.
  • You are allowed to keep the merchandise. The Federal Trade Commission says you have a legal right to keep unordered merchandise.

MORE: See why these scams are bad for you

Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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