The U.S. Postal Service is among the organizations issuing warnings...

The U.S. Postal Service is among the organizations issuing warnings about "brushing scams."  Credit: AP/Nati Harnik

You got a delivery, a package you didn't order.

There's no return address. You haven't been billed. You think: It's my lucky day.

Think again.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection said Monday you have likely become a victim of a so-called "brushing scam," in which a recipient receives an unwanted package that turns them into a "verified buyer" — all so their name can be used to write "fake positive online reviews of merchandise" to fraudulently boost product ratings, that "scammers hope results" in an increase of sales of inferior goods at inflated prices.

The U.S. Postal Service, Better Business Bureau and other organizations have all issued warnings, as well, regarding the latest scam and warn that while you won't have to pay for the brushing delivery, it might have already cost you and others, who have had their identities stolen or fallen victim to paying for what they believe were legitimate online products.

Here is how it works, according to the Division of Consumer Protection:

  • You receive a package containing items you haven't ordered. There is no return address and the sender is usually an international or third-party seller who found your mailing information online. The fact the package has been delivered turns you into a verified buyer.
  • Your information is then used to post "a false positive review of a product online" — usually on Amazon or some other online retail service — in order to "boost the 5-star ratings" of the product and "encourage legitimate shoppers" to believe the product or seller is of a higher quality than it actually is. This leads to future buyers being scammed into paying more for an inferior product or service.

So, for a small investment, scammers reap potential big paydays, turning you into both a victim and an unwitting accomplice in furtherance of their scams.

"Online shopping and frequent deliveries offer scammers the opportunity to use your personal information for unscrupulous purposes," acting Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in a statement.

The Division of Consumer Protection said recipients of these deliveries are "under no obligation to pay for unsolicited merchandise." You also should notify any third-party retailer involved of the scam — entities such as Amazon, Walmart, eBay or others — and ask them to remove any reviews posted in your name.

For more information on brushing scams, contact the DCP Helpline at 800-697-1220, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or visit the DCP website. The division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook.

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