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Gephardt: Not just mysterious seeds — 'brushing' scams sweeping Utah

By Matt Gephardt, KSL TV | Posted - Aug. 11, 2020 at 7:23 a.m.

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SOUTH JORDAN — What would you think if package after package addressed to you kept showing up at your doorstep and you didn’t even order anything? It’s happening to hundreds of Utahns, including a South Jordan woman as part of what’s called a “brushing” scam.

The recipients of those packages don’t pay anything – so what exactly is the scam here?

Straws, a duster, carabiners, a light bulb, a harmonica: Liz Jensen did not order any of those items from Amazon, but they’ve been showing up at her door — off and on — for months. But, here is the really creepy part – it’s not a mistake. Those items were addressed to her.

“I would post occasionally on Facebook about it,” said Jensen about those mystery packages. “And, my friends would be, ‘Oh, how do I get on that list?’ or “Yeah, that’s so cool!’ But, we were very unnerved.”

Jensen called Amazon.

“They just said, ‘You can keep them, donate them, or throw it way. It’s up to you,'” she said.

Jensen’s story comes as no surprise to Jane Rupp of the Utah Better Business Bureau.

“It’s a brushing scam,” Rupp said. “A business sends a consumer a package that they didn’t request and then uses that consumer’s information to post a positive review.”

Liz Jensen, whose personal information Rupp said may have been hacked or stolen, isn’t the only victim in this scam. She said the victim is anyone who looks at reviews when trying to decide if something would be a good purchase.

Photo: KSL TV

With inflated five-star reviews, consumers may end up ordering shoddy pieces of garbage that they thought were going to be really good purchases.

“And so those positive reviews, even though they’re fake, will help that retailer to get more money,” said Rupp. “It’s pennies for them to ship something that weighs ounces.”

As for Jensen, she said she plans to use all the packages she has received as white elephant gifts come December. She takes those five-star reviews with a grain of salt.

“I don’t trust half the reviews anymore,” said Jensen. “I actually look for negative reviews because I think they’re probably more likely to be a real person that actually owns the product they purchased.”

What should you do if you’ve been swept up in a brushing scam? Rupp said you need to check to make sure you’re not a victim of identity theft.

“So Google your name and address — see what’s out there,” said Rupp. “Get that credit report so you know that someone else isn’t messing with your credit, and check your bank statements, your credit card statements — just to make sure.”

KSL Investigators reached out to Amazon to ask about the brushing scams, and we didn’t hear back.

KSL recently reported that Utahns have been receiving unordered seeds from China as part of what’s believed to be a brushing scam. If you have received some of those mystery seeds, the Utah Department of Agriculture is asking you bring that entire package to them for analysis.


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