Across America people are receiving packages from China that they didn’t order, this is due to a scam known as ‘brushing’ where firms from China send packages to US addresses filled with cheap and unwanted items.

The main objective ‘brushing’ is to boost the sales ratings of their clients products on either the clients website or on third party e-commerce sites such as Amazon. This then results in an increase in sales for the clients as well as an increase in exposure as the more sales and more positive reviews a business has the more likely they will show higher up in search results.

The way brushing firms work is by obtaining legitimate US addresses and sending them packages with cheap products inside, when the package arrives at the address the purchase is verified by the package being delivered and recorded by the couriers tracking details. Then the fake account used to make the purchase leaves a review for a different product on either the client’s website or on a third party platform using that tracking number as proof the purchase was made.  Since the package is recorded as delivered the review is marked as ‘verified’ so that future customers are then lulled into purchasing the product as they believe that the positive reviews are from actual customers and that the reviews themselves are real.

Since the ‘verified purchase’ badge can be applied to any purchase the brushing culprit is able to send out packages with the cheapest product the client sells and then leave the review on a more expensive and more popular item, meaning that the sales for the more expensive items will rise while the expenses of the operation is minimised.

The ‘verified badge’ can only be applied to one review so this often means that the brushing firm will send at least one package a day to the US address in order to stack up multiple verified reviews for different accounts and for different products the clients sell. The recipient will then daily be receiving packages of cheap items such as hair bands, erasers and plastic jewellery.

The shipping costs for the operation is also very cheap, this is because the united postal union and subsides from the U.S postal service have imbalanced pricing policies that makes shipping from China to the US very cheap. This paired with the cheap junk sent makes the expenses for the shipments next to nothing, which is a huge benefit for both the brushing firms and their clients.

Mark Mikkelson

Automation and workflow specialist