The Amazon Brushing Scam. And Friends…

Have you been ‘brushed’ yet? If not, it’s quite possible that you soon will be…

What are we talking about? The latest in a seemingly never-ending series of scams to hit people.

According to consumer group Which?, hundreds of thousands of people up and down the UK have received mystery parcels from Amazon, containing goods that they didn’t order, in a scam known as ‘brushing’.

Which? says that the sellers of these unwanted items are looking to exploit Amazon’s ranking system – which favours items with high sales volumes and good reviews – by sending items to people who simply didn’t order them. They will then often take the scam a stage further by creating a fake Amazon account linked to the recipient’s address, and leave a glowing review of the product that’s just been ‘ordered.’

At this point you may be thinking, ‘what’s it matter if I receive something I didn’t order? I’ll just keep it (according to Which? 63% of people do just that) or throw it away’.

…Except that someone has found your address – and created a fake account linked to that address. They’re clearly unscrupulous, so are they going to think twice about selling the personal details they have? Of course not.

We have written about scams previously and no doubt we will do so again. The pandemic – and the subsequent lockdowns – brought out the very best in millions of people. Sadly it also had the opposite effect, as the number of scams and frauds exploded.

It is hard to put a figure on how much is lost through fraud each year, simply because so many victims are too frightened or embarrassed to report it. This may be especially true in areas like romance scams, with people simply too ashamed to admit that they have been duped.

As long ago as 2017, the National Crime Agency put the total figure lost to fraud at £140bn a year, and credit agency Experian suggested it was even higher, at £193bn. Whatever the true figure, what cannot be under-estimated, is the human cost of fraud, and the erosion of trust it causes.

Which? tried to put a figure on it, suggesting the costs to victims’ wellbeing could be as high as £9.3bn a year – the equivalent of £2,500 for every victim. They suggest that while the typical amount lost is around £600, the emotional cost is much higher, with many victims suffering from anxiety and ill-health after being scammed.

Clearly something like this is difficult to quantify, and the impact will vary considerably with individual people. What is undeniable though, is that scams and fraud will only go on increasing, and that they will continue to target the most vulnerable.

Whether it is the text telling us that the post office couldn’t deliver a parcel, the Inland Revenue supposedly threatening us with prosecution or ‘track and trace’ asking for our details, we all need to be permanently alert – and suspicious. And as we start to do our Christmas shopping online, it is perhaps time to update the old maxim. If it seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true – and if the reviews seem too good to be true, they almost certainly are too good to be true…