Division of Consumer Protection warns of 'brushing scams'
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection on Feb. 28 released a statement warning residents about a fraud in which consumers receive in the mail a package they did not order. Known as a brushing scam, the swindle targets a recipient and turns them into a “verified buyer” for the purpose of writing fake positive online reviews of merchandise using the recipient’s name. The fake reviews boost or inflate the products’ ratings and sales numbers, which scammers hope results in an increase of actual sales. They also compromise the consumer's personal information at the same time. Acting Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in a statement, “Receiving packages you did not order at your front steps does not mean it is your lucky day, but most likely, it is coming from someone using your personal information for their financial gain. Don’t fall for the brushing scams that are using you as bait to boost their online ratings with fake information.” To avoid being a victim of brushing scams, the Division of Consumer Protection offers the following tips: Recipients are under no obligation to pay for unsolicited merchandise and can consider it a gift. If a person does not want the item, it can be donated or simply disposed of it. The item does not have to be returned. Report it. If the item received is organic, report it to the USDA; other items should be reported to local authorities. Notify the retailer. If the package received is from a third-party retailer, ask them to remove any reviews under your name. Monitor your accounts. Your personal information may have been compromised. Examine your online shopping accounts and credit card bills for signs of unusual activity and check your credit report. Finally, change your password. More information is available by calling the DCP Helpline at 800-697-1220, or by visiting the state Division of Consumer Protection website.