Brushing scams: How to protect your personal info if you are sent unordered packages

The New York state Division of Consumer Protection is warning residents against brushing scams – in which unordered packages show up at your doorstep as apparent free gifts.
They aren’t. It’s a scam that targets a recipient and turns them into a “verified buyer” upon delivery for the purpose of writing fake positive online reviews of merchandise in the recipient’s name, according to the state.
“These fake reviews fraudulently boost or inflate the products’ ratings and sales numbers, which scammers hope results in an increase of actual sales, and they also compromise your personal information with this illicit practice,” it said in a news release.
The packages won’t have a return or address or will be that of a retailer. The sender is usually an international, third-party seller who has found the recipient’s address online. And once the package arrives, the scammer can write a glowing review of the product and boost it with a five-star rating.
The Division of Consumer Protection offered these tips to anyone who may have been a victim:
1. You don’t have to pay for it. Federal law may allow recipients to keep items they received but did not order. Recipients are under no obligation to pay for unsolicited merchandise and can consider it a gift. If you don’t want the item, you can donate it or simply dispose of it and do not have to return it.
2. Report it. If the item received is organic (seeds, plants or food), report it to the USDA. Unsolicited seeds or plants should not be planted as they may be invasive plants, noxious weeds or carry diseases that could cause damage to economically important crops. Seeds may be sent to the address below for destruction. Please ensure the seed package is sealed tightly and mail the seeds, the original packaging, your contact information and any additional details to:
Office of the State Plant Health Director of New York
c/o Christopher Zaloga
500 New Karner Road
Albany, New York 12205
If the item is an unknown liquid or substance, contact the local authorities.
3. Notify the retailer. If the package received is from a third-party retailer like Amazon, Walmart, eBay, or WISH report it to them and ask them to remove any reviews under your name.
4. Monitor your accounts. Your personal information may have been compromised. Often scammers obtain personal information through nefarious means and with ill intentions to use it for several scams and other illicit activities in the future. Examine your online shopping accounts and credit card bills for signs of unusual activity and check your credit report. Consumers can currently obtain free credit reports weekly through April 20, 2022. Request yours at
5. Change your password. If you have an account with the retailer identified on the package, change your account password with the retailer.