The Amazon Brushing Scam & How to Avoid It

“Falling victim” to a brushing scam on Amazon can hardly feel like a bad thing at all. At first glance, there are no downsides in sight—you get free stuff and some company somewhere gets glowing, albeit fake reviews in exchange.

The thing with brushing scams is that they’re not so much something you fall for, it’s more that your personal information is being used to scam others down the line. It’s definitely not a victimless crime.

More than anything, the fact that your mailing address has shown up in a brushing scam is a blaring alarm. Read on to learn how to react when unordered packages arrive at your doorstep, including whether it’s OK to keep any unsolicited items you find inside.

Brushing scam—Amazon packages for free, is this even a scam?

If you’ve received unordered merchandise from Amazon and you’re sure that it’s not a gift from someone you know, then yes, it’s a scam. The victim of a brushing scam isn’t the person who receives the unsolicited merchandise, it’s the person who’s misled by fake reviews into buying low quality products later.

Getting Amazon packages in this way tells you something important, though: your personal information has been compromised. The scammers clearly have your name and mailing address. Doing online shopping in your name might only be the beginning of what they can do.

They might be able to set up a fake account using your personal information and gain access to your Amazon and other online accounts, maybe even your bank accounts. Identity theft isn’t out of the question, either.

How to spot the scam

The Amazon brushing scam is not hard to spot, it marches right up to your door and announces itself in the form of a package you don’t remember ordering. If it’s not something someone ordered for you as a gift and you didn’t order it yourself, it’s almost certainly a brushing scam.

How Amazon brushing schemes work

Amazon brushing scams have been around for at least a couple of years now, the details vary but this is how they usually work:

  • You get a package or packages from Amazon that you didn’t order.
  • These unsolicited packages are paid for and sent by unethical companies that operate on Amazon.
  • They send unordered merchandise like this for two reasons: to artificially boost sales numbers and to create fake verified reviews.

Amazon sellers can spam their product pages with as many positive reviews as they like, but the site filters online reviews for those written by verified customers. A verified buyer is one that has actually purchased and received the product in question.

So the point of each package is ultimately to get the seller a dishonest positive review on Amazon. This, together with the inflated sales numbers, gives the seller more exposure and helps them con more people into buying their product.

What to do if you find yourself involved in an Amazon brushing scam

First things first, ask around to make sure someone you know hasn’t sent you a gift. Check the package for a return address to help with your detective work. If no one owns up to having ordered something for you on Amazon, then you’re probably dealing with a brushing scam. Here’s what you should do next:

Report the scam to Amazon

Contact Amazon’s Customer Service and provide them with at least one order ID, the number of unwanted packages you received, and a photo of at least one shipping label (if you can manage it). You won’t be asked to return any packages associated with brushing scams, you’re free to keep them.

Change your Amazon password

Even if these products weren’t ordered from your Amazon account, now is a good time to change your Amazon password. Set a long and complex password and don’t use the same one for any other online accounts. NordPass is a password manager that makes generating and keeping track of your account passwords easy.

Protect your finances

Packages sent in brushing scams are typically paid for by companies pushing their own product or third-party sellers. Check your bank account and credit card statements just in case, though. Contact your bank or credit card provider if something looks off.

Report the scam to the Better Business Bureau

Brushing schemes are not only prohibited by Amazon’s terms of service, but they’re also examples of bad business practice. The Better Business Bureau has a form you can use to file a complaint regarding the company in question.

Get your personal information off the clear web

The most pressing question is how the scammers got your name and address in the first place, not to mention what other information they have on you. The most likely answer is that they scraped information from a data broker, specifically a people search site. These are companies that specialize in piecing together information on individuals and selling or sharing searchable profiles.

Search for your name using a search engine of your choice. Try your home address and phone number as well. You’ll likely find a lot of people search sites in the results. These are just the tip of the iceberg, there are hundreds of data brokers operating in the United States alone, and many don’t show up in searches like this.

State data privacy laws have led to these data brokers having opt-out procedures in place to allow people to remove themselves from their data transactions. They don’t make it easy, though—it takes an estimated 300+ hours to opt out of all the data brokers that have your data, on average. Profiles have a tendency to reappear after some time, so you have to check back with each data broker every now and then after opting out the first time.

An automated personal information removal service like Incogni takes all the leg work out of the whole process. Incogni tracks down which data brokers have your data and sends them opt-out requests on your behalf. It sends out dozens of opt-out requests at a time and follows up with data brokers on your behalf.

Check which of your accounts have been breached

A far less likely source of information for brushing scam operators is a data breach that led to data being sold or shared on the dark web. The dark web is neither safe nor easy to access if you’re not tech-savvy. It’s also notoriously difficult to search.

Luckily, the website allows you to get a pretty good idea of which of your accounts have been involved in data breaches. If you use the same password across accounts, then all those other accounts may have been compromised as well. This is why a password manager is such a good idea.

Begin the identity recovery process

If you have reason to worry that information like your Social Security number is available online, then identity theft is a real threat. The Federal Trade Commission has prepared an identity theft portal on which you’ll find guidance on what steps to take next.

Do you want to know about more Amazon scams to be aware of? Check out these guides:

Clean up your digital footprint with Incogni

Data brokers collect and sell your personal information, exposing you to unnecessary risks like phishing, scams, and identity theft.

Incogni removes your data from these databases, preventing your personal information from spreading far and wide on the internet. 

  • Fully automated service
  • Opt out from some of the biggest data brokers in the industry
  • Receive regular progress reports


I received a package addressed to me that I didn’t order, do I have to return it?

No, there’s no need to return packages you received as part of a brushing scam. These unwanted packages are fully paid for, so you can keep their contents with a clear conscience. Whether you received a collection of cheap, lightweight products or something more useful like Bluetooth speakers or a computer vacuum cleaner, it’s yours to keep. Don’t need or want it? Consider donating it to charity or giving it away.

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