Action 9

‘Too good to be true’: Unordered surprise packages likely part of ‘brushing’ scam

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A woman in Osceola County contacted Action 9 about a scheme called ‘brushing’. For her it all started when a shiny new ring showed up at her door that she had not ordered.

“I’m an internet shopper, I shop all the time,” Karen Elko said.

While browsing social media, Elko came across an ad she believed was from a well-known company.

“A deal, close out on a Jacuzzi, I was like, ‘$49.99, great deal,’” Elko explained.

She received a tracking number for the shipment, but when the item arrived in the mail, she knew from the tiny package that it was not what she ordered.

“I thought it was like a little matchbox or a little like a little tiny picture of a Jacuzzi,” Elko said.

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Instead, she said it was a ring that looked like a Cartier ring. “Everything said Cartier, like it was legit. I really thought it was a legit thing.”

Turns out she’s not the only person to get one. Reports of people receiving bogus Cartier rings that they didn’t order are all over social media, and it’s likely part of what has become known as a ‘brushing’ scam.

“Brushing is something that consumers have only started seeing really in the last three to five years,” said Better Business Bureau president Holly Salmons.

She says the boom of online shopping where high ratings and multiple stars are gold, has made ‘brushing’ more common.

The scammers use the shipment of a usually light weight, inexpensive item, as verification for a sale then pose as the customer to write a glowing review online.

Salmons explained, “They’re trying to convince you as the consumer that they’ve had 1,000s of happy customers, 1,000s of happy and successful transactions.”

The idea is the bogus reviews boost sales, making the scammers more money.

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The downfall is it potentially leaves customers with inferior products, or in Elko’s case, a product that is completely different than what she ordered.

“If it looks like something too good to be true. It’s definitely not what it’s cracked up to be,” Elko said.

If this happens to you and the sender is a company you’ve used before, go online to make sure you check your account for fraud, change your password and also notify that company.

As for the item, if you like it, feel free to keep it. According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), you’re under no obligation to return it.

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal,

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.