Over a million UK households received Amazon parcels they never ordered

Over a million UK households have fallen victim to a scam known as “brushing” whereby they have received Amazon parcels they never ordered to boost the rankings of third-party sellers.

Consumer group Which? said it was worried about the number of households that had reported receiving one of the mystery boxes at their home address, sent from an unknown person.

Which? has said it believes that third-party merchants are exploiting Amazon’s highly competitive search ranking systems to favour items with high sales volumes and stand-out reviews.

The scam works by sending items to customers who didn’t order the items, before logging it as a genuine purchase.

Unsuspecting “customers” have reported receiving items including magnetic eyelashes, eyelash serum, toys for pets and children, Bluetooth accessories, an iPhone case, a Frisbee, medical gloves and other items that are cheap to ship in large volumes.

Some third-party sellers even reportedly create fake Amazon accounts linked to the customer’s address to “purchase” the item for themselves before leaving a positive review for their own item.

The consumer group said it heard from victims who had been sent a large number of items including cheap electronics and beauty products that they had no knowledge of ordering.

A survey conducted by the group found found that four per cent of the 2,000 surveyed consumers (or 1.1 estimated people when scaled-up nationally) said they, or someone they lived with had received one of the packages.

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Of the consumers who received the packages, 63 per cent said they kept them, 28 per cent threw the packages away and 16 per cent gave them to others.

“Consumers should be able to trust that the popularity and reviews of products they are buying online are genuine, so it is troubling that third-party sellers appear to be using brushing scams to game Amazon Marketplace,” Which? director of policy and advocacy Rocio Concha said.

“Amazon needs to do more to thoroughly investigate instances of brushing scams and take strong action against sellers that are attempting to mislead consumers.”

Amazon responded by saying: “Orchestrated by bad actors who procure names and addresses from various external sources, ‘brushing’ is a scheme affecting all online marketplaces.

“We estimate that less than 0.001 per cent of Amazon orders are impacted by brushing as Amazon has robust processes in place to prevent abuse from impacting our reviews, search rankings and other customer experiences.

“We will never stop improving the sophistication of abuse prevention in our store, and we will continue to take the appropriate enforcement actions, including support for law enforcement organisations in their efforts to hold bad actors accountable.

“We strongly encourage those who have received unsolicited packages to report them to our customer services team so that we can investigate fully and take the appropriate actions.”

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