Brushing scams send fake luxury goods to you so scammers can post positive online shopping reviews

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Thursday, June 1, 2023
What is a brushing scam? Why fake luxury goods may appear at your door
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A brushing scam is when fake designer goods are sent to you unprompted so the scammer can leave real-looking positive reviews for online shoppers.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Cartier ring or other luxury goods, left at your doorstep! It may seem like an extravagant, surprise gift, but the I -Team found it's part of what's called a brushing scam, and it could put you at risk.

An ABC7 Chicago employee received the red box with what looked like a Cartier ring inside and even came with a "certificate of authentication." But she never ordered it, and she's not the only one.

The same reports of mystery ring shipments abound on social media.

"And I thought, 'this is strange'," said one woman in a TikTok post. "I'm like, 'what's happening?' Packaged like the real Cartier."

The I-Team brought the ABC7 Chicago employee's ring and the packaging to the Chicago offices of the Federal Trade Commission to find out why it was sent.

"It could be, like, a fake Burberry scarf sent to you; anything designer that shows up at your doorstep, beware," said Todd Kossow, Director of the FTC Midwest Region office in Chicago.

Kossow said no one will ever send you real designer merchandise for free and that the fake ring is part of what's known as a brushing scam.

In a brushing scam, companies that may make knock-off merchandise send you their counterfeit goods because they want to use your name and shipping information to write what appears to be a legitimate review on an online shopping platform.

"For them, that that has potential benefits because positive reviews generate sales," Kossow said.

If you get an item in such a way, Kossow warns that means someone could already have your personal information; you should immediately change passwords on your online shopping accounts in case they were compromised, monitor your credit cards and credit score, and consider putting a freeze on your credit.

Why does the scammer want to use your real name and information?

"They want to be able to show that they sent this to you, there's a record of it. So if anybody questions whether that review they post is real, they can point to the fact that hey, they did send it, you did make this purchase, they shipped it out," explained Kossow. He said that if you Google the address, you should never call the shipper. "We have heard instances where people have figured it out by Googling the address and gotten the phone number and called and the people on the other end of the line have then tried to get more very sensitive personal information."

The I-Team searched the address on the ring came from and called, but when they said they were from ABC7 Chicago and recording, the person hung up.

The I-Team also reached out to Cartier to see if the company had anything to add about their product name being used in this scheme. We have not yet heard back.

The big takeaway is that if you get something like this, change passwords on your online shopping accounts. If you want, you can keep the free product.