Amazon customers caught up in scarf scam

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Woman looking confused into box at itemImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Which? says dodgy sellers are sending scarves to artificially inflate sales volumes and create fake reviews

Random Amazon customers are being targeted by sellers in what is known as a "brushing" scam, according to Which?

The consumer organisation said "dodgy" retailers were sending out "Suzhichou" branded scarves to boost sales volumes and create fake reviews on the website.

The "sales" then help their products rank higher in search results.

Amazon said "brushing" affects all online marketplaces and it had "robust processes" in place to deal with the problem.

Which? said while worrying there was no cause for panic and customers should report the unwanted package to Amazon.

Brooke North received one of the scarves last month: "I thought it was weird because I didn't order it. I was going to put it in the bin but I gave it to my niece instead because she goes horse riding and it was covered in horses.

"I didn't get in touch with Amazon because it was just posted through the letterbox with 'Suzhichou' printed on the box."

Image source, Brooke North
Image caption,
Brooke North almost threw the scarf in the bin but instead gave it to her horse riding niece

Ms North from Grays in Essex, who runs a dance academy in London, said she had not received any further other unsolicited packages in the post.

Other people commented on her social media that they too had received similar scarves.

Jill McIntosh said she had "ordered bedding... and I got a scarf, as did my friend". Martina Cerna said she too had received one.

How do 'brushing' scams work?

Which? said after an unscrupulous seller submits a fake order it will send a cheap, low-quality product - such as one of these scarves - to a random address.

The order generates a tracking number on the marketplace and once received, the scammer is able to leave a fake five-star review, which in turn bolsters figures.

This results in more people seeing and buying poor-quality products, because they are under the mistaken impression they are highly rated, Which? said.

How did the scammer get my details?

The consumer group said fraudsters get names and addresses from "any one of a number of places".

It said some shoppers have reported receiving the scarves after ordering a different item from a Facebook marketplace store based in China.

Details may have also been taken from a publicly available source, been compromised in a data leak or accessed via an unsecure website, Which? said.

It added people who have been targeted should report the package and change their password.

Can you keep it?

Citizens' Advice previously told the BBC that if an item addressed to you arrives out of the blue and if there has been no previous contact with the company it is from, then you can keep it.

In a statement Amazon said: "We are relentless in our efforts to detect and prevent abuse from impacting customer experiences.

"Sellers are prohibited from sending unsolicited packages to customers and we will continue to improve the sophistication of abuse prevention in our store and take the appropriate actions like suspending or removing selling privileges."

In 2021 Which? reported more than one million households in the UK could have been victims of "brushing".

It surveyed 1,839 people and found 4% of respondents said they or someone in their household received a mystery Amazon package.

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority is currently investigating Google and Amazon over fake and misleading reviews.

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