The Deceptive World of Amazon Brushing Scams (Beware)

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  • Post published:February 26, 2024
  • Post category:Reviews

Amazon shopping is very convenient for many people and has become the go-to online marketplace for everything from household goods to the latest tech products. While Amazon offers an abundance of choices at competitive prices, not everything is as it seems.

There is a growing scam called “Amazon brushing” that sellers use to boost product ratings and mislead customers. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into how this scam works and what you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Understanding What Amazon Brushing Means

The term “Amazon brushing” refers to when third-party sellers or manufacturers create fake Amazon accounts to boost product reviews and mislead buyers.

These sellers often work with overseas drop shippers who purchase customers’ addresses without consent. Then they use those stolen addresses to ship unsolicited items and leave fake reviews under the buyers’ names.

When a customer receives an item they didn’t order, the seller leaves a glowing five-star review while posing as the recipient to boost the product’s rating.

This manipulates the review system and makes products appear more popular than they actually are. It’s a dishonest marketing tactic intended to deceive people into purchasing items they may not have otherwise bought.

Amazon has acknowledged brushing as a problem and works to detect and take action against sellers involved. However, the e-commerce giant cannot stop all instances due to the sophisticated methods scammers employ.

That’s why it’s critical for shoppers to remain vigilant and understand how brushing scams operate.

The Devious Methods Used in Amazon Brushing Schemes

Sellers involved in brushing employ a variety of techniques to carry out their deceptive plans. Here are some of the main methods:

Creating Fake Accounts: Scammers establish multiple bogus Amazon accounts using stolen or fictional identities. They ship items to addresses linked to these accounts to leave reviews from different profiles, making it seem like many verified buyers endorse the products.

Address Harvesting: Drop shippers scrape mailing lists, public records, and dark web databases to collect names and home addresses without consent. They provide these addresses to sellers for brushing shipment purposes.

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Sending Unsolicited Items: Once scammers obtain shipping addresses, they dispatch low-cost trinkets or cheap products to homes without any purchase being made. This plants the seeds for phony five-star feedback.

Leaving Fake Positive Reviews: Upon receiving confirmation the unordered items shipped, the brushing accomplices post detailed but untruthful glowing reviews while signed in under the fake buyer accounts. This artificially boosts ratings and misleads real shoppers.

Cycling Through Many Products: To avoid detection, brushing rings often cycle through shipping different low-cost items and leaving reviews for a variety of products over time across various seller accounts. The goal is to evade Amazon’s algorithms that detect review anomalies.

Employing Virtual Private Networks: Scammers regularly switch VPN locations and IP addresses to hide their true identities and locations from Amazon and authorities. This makes it tougher for investigators to track down the perpetrators of brushing schemes.

As you can see, these scammers go to great lengths to deceive people. Their underhanded tactics can misguide purchasing decisions and harm honest businesses. It shows why staying informed is important for protecting yourself as an online shopper.

How Amazon Brushing Affects Customers

The impact of brushing scams reaches beyond manipulated product ratings. It directly affects customers in multiple ways:

Privacy invasion: Receiving unsolicited items requires scammers to collect people’s personal information like names and addresses without consent. This is an invasion of privacy.

Wasted money: Shipping even cheap items nationwide has associated costs that sellers pass on to honest customers. This drives up prices for everyone.

Purchase regret: Fake glowing reviews may cause people to buy products they end up disliking or find don’t meet expectations. This leads to buyer’s remorse.

Damage to reputation: If people catch on that a company uses brushing, it severely damages trust in the brand. Positive reviews gained through deception can backfire long-term.

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Lost time/effort: Receiving mystery packages and dealing with return shipping wastes recipients’ valuable time and effort for something they didn’t order in the first place.

Security/identity risks: Stolen personal data like names and addresses that sellers harvest in brushing schemes poses security risks if it ends up in the wrong hands.

The various ways brushing negatively impacts customers make it clear why guarding against this scam is so important, especially as online shopping continues growing in popularity.

Signals to Watch Out for Suspicious Activity

Since brushing is intended to seem legitimate, it can be tough for buyers to distinguish real reviews from fake ones left by scammers. However, there are some telltale signs that should raise red flags:

Excessive positive reviews: If a product has an unusually high number of perfect five-star ratings compared to similar items, it indicates manipulation may be present.

Vague/generic praise: Glowing reviews that lack specifics and sound akin to what a marketer wrote are suspect. Real users share both positive and constructive feedback.

Poor English/grammar: Reviews riddled with typos, bad formatting and syntax from alleged “native English speakers” warrant closer inspection.

New/inactive accounts: Leave a rating from an account with no other activity history, purchases or reviews? There’s a good chance it’s fictitious.

Address patterns: Noticing multiple positive reviews from people with addresses only miles apart or in seemingly unrelated locations could point to brushing.

Being able to identify such red flags in reviews is key to weeding through authentic feedback from the manipulation tactics employed by brushing scammers.

Recommendations for Safeguarding as a Customer

To help protect yourself as a savvy shopper, here are some sensible precautions anyone can take:

Review item/seller histories: Check multiple reviews over time versus just ratings. Watch for anomalies signaling inauthentic narratives.

Verify addresses match names: Real customers usually leave full names associated with their review addresses for verification.

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Report mystery packages: Contact Amazon right away upon receiving unordered items to flag potential brushing activity by that seller for investigation.

Tighten privacy settings: Adjust privacy controls on all accounts to the maximum level to avoid personal data falling into scammers’ hands for brushing purposes.

Be selective: Carefully vet sellers and items based on legitimate reviews, trust seals, return policies and company reputations prior to purchases.

Stay vigilant: Shoppers must remain attuned to evolving deceptive tactics like brushing to spot signs of manipulation and avoid being misled or scammed.

Consider alternatives: When in doubt, investigate options from other reputable retailers or seek recommendations from established brand stores versus random third parties.

Staying proactive helps everyday consumers avoid becoming victims of the growing problem of Amazon brushing scams and deceptive review manipulation schemes. With prudent safeguards, people can shop online confidently.

Conclusion

While the convenience of e-commerce makes browsing and buying simpler in many ways, online marketplaces also provide covert avenues for scammers to deceive customers. Though Amazon brushing aims to scam buyers, these schemes ultimately also hurt honest businesses by distorting the true customer experience.

Fortunately, educated consumers who know the brushing signs and take basic precautions can recognize manipulation attempts.

Reporting suspicious activity aids investigations as well. With continued vigilance against evolving deceptive tactics, shoppers can feel secure exercising their purchasing power online without the risk of falling for misleading schemes.

Overall, the takeaway is that not all positive reviews should be trusted at face value. Checking seller credibility and cross-referencing feedback are important steps towards making well-informed buying choices free of brushing scams and review deception.

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