More than a million families in the UK may be victims of a scam called “brushing”, in which people receive packages they did not order.
An increasing number of people have reported receiving unwanted Amazon packages that arrive without a return address.
The package includes items such as magnetic eyelashes, children’s toys, Bluetooth accessories, iPhone cases and medical gloves.
Now which consumer group? has said the mailing is part of a move in which third-party sellers from overseas attempt to improve their position in Amazon’s ultra-competitive search ranking system.
Sellers ship the unwanted product and record the item as an actual purchase, because the more transactions they make, the higher the rating.
But while the scam costs the recipients nothing, it raises questions about how their personal data was found.
There is also concern that the environmental impact of the shipment of hundreds of thousands of unwanted consumer goods will be substantial.
By whom the survey of about two thousand people? found that 4% of those surveyed – or, expanded nationally, an estimated 1.1 million people – said they or someone in their family had received such a package.
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Of those surveyed who received a mystery package, 63% disclosed that they kept it, 28% threw it away, and 16% gave it away.
Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy for the consumer group, said: “Consumers need to be able to trust that the popularity and reviews of the products they buy online are genuine, so it is worrying that third-party sellers use it. Doing is a scam to brush up on Amazon Marketplace to play with.
“Amazon needs to do more to thoroughly investigate the brush scam cases and crack down on sellers trying to mislead consumers.”
Amazon claimed that the brushing out was a scheme that affected all online marketplaces.
A spokesperson said: “We estimate that less than 0.001% of Amazon orders are affected by brushing because Amazon has robust processes in place to prevent abuse from affecting our reviews, search rankings and other customer experiences.”
But he added: “We will never stop improving the sophistication of abuse prevention in our stores, and we will continue to take appropriate enforcement action, including supporting law enforcement organizations in their efforts to hold bad actors accountable.
“We strongly encourage those who have received unwanted packages to report them to our customer service team so that we can conduct a thorough investigation and take appropriate action.”
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