COLUMBIA, S.C. — First, it was packages of mystery seeds, Now, it's unordered, unsolicited packages of face masks being delivered to homes and businesses in South Carolina. While the idea of free merchandise arriving on your doorstep may sound great, the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) wants you to be aware that this is a form of a "brushing" scam.
According to SCDCA, a “brushing” scam is when merchandise is delivered by large online retailers, like Amazon or eBay, that host third-party sellers. The third-party seller will send merchandise to unsuspecting consumers and then write themselves a five-star review on their online store in the consumer’s name.
Here are some tips if unexpected packages start showing up on your doorstep:
- You can keep the unordered item it if you want. If you receive merchandise that you did not order, you have the legal right to keep it. If you receive an invoice asking for payment after the fact, you do not have to pay it.
- Report it to the retailer and SCDCA. If you can easily identify what company the merchandise came from, you can file a complaint with them. For companies like Amazon, brushing and fake reviews violate their policies, so you can report any type of unexpected package that is delivered by them. If you cannot get a response from a company, SCDCA can help mediate a complaint.
- Give it back to the delivery company. If you do not want to keep the merchandise, you can take it to the company, like USPS or FedEx, who delivered it and they will handle it.
- Change your passwords and check your financial statements. Even though “brushing” scams don’t usually involve the serious forms of identity theft, it doesn’t hurt to change your passwords and carefully review your financial statements. Regularly check your personal and financial statements for any suspicious activity. When changing your password, the longer, the better. Make sure not to share answers to your account security questions online.
Receive the wrong product? If you DID order something online, received the wrong product but still want what you ordered, immediately contact the seller and the company who completed the order. If you don’t get help from them, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company and file a complaint against the business with SCDCA.
Receive mystery seeds in the mail? This bizarre form of a brushing scam is happening more and more across the nation. If you receive an unexpected shipment of seeds, contact Clemson University’s Department of Plant Industry at (864) 646-2150, email@example.com or submit a report online. For more information about mystery seed shipments, click here.