Services like Amazon Prime have been lifesavers for many families as the COVID-19 pandemic overstays its welcome. From groceries to school supplies to just little things to keep each family member sane, nearly anything can be ordered on Amazon and be delivered just a few days later. But what if you start getting items you didn't order?
The ScamTracker page on the Better Business Bureau of Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia website has been lighting up with web scams, according to spokeswoman Dottie Callina. One of the latest and more unusual issues is called Amazon "brushing" - which, in e-commerce, is a technique used to deceitfully gain positive reviews by creating fake orders.
"The company that ordered it and paid for it then uses your information to give their company great reviews," said Callina, in plain terms. But it can be more complicated than that.
It's more than just getting random stuff in the mail, Callina warns, it means your name, phone number and shipping address - if not other details about you - have been compromised by someone who is less than reputable.
"If this is happening to you, although you don't see anything, you need to go in, have a new email address, change your passwords, even go so far as checking your bank account, your credit card account every single day until you feel comfortable that they (the scammers) haven't accessed your financial information," said Callina. "Georgia consumers are allowed two free copies of their financial reports each year, I would recommend you do that."
Even if there's no activity on your accounts and passwords have been updated, Callina said you can hang on to whatever is shipped to your doorstep, but there's one more thing to watch out for.
"If it comes you unordered, that is that federal trade commission law that says you have a legal right to keep the unordered merchandise," said Callina. "We would suggest, if you didn't order it and you're able to do so, donate it to charity... just be extremely careful about what's going on because if you are receiving this, you are at the mercy of the scammers because you have no control over what you receive ."
Callina said in some situations, that can even mean receiving illegal products or contraband, like weapons or drugs.
"You can sit there and say, 'I didn't order this, I didn't order this,' but since they're being shipped to your home, you face the consequences of that," said Callina.
Callina said the brushing scam is popular in Georgia, but it's also spreading fast throughout the country. In the cases with illegal items, Callina said law enforcement might need to get involved.
"I would take photographs of the merchandise, take notes of the day it was received, if you contact Amazon, I would have that information available," said Callina. "Contacting your local police would be a great thing if you've been shipped drugs or weapons, so they can come and look at them and possibly, hopefully, take them from you, so they're not with you. But you need to do it immediately."
In the extreme cases that involve unlawful items, Callina said to file a report with local police immediately upon receiving the item, and then contact any additional agencies as determined to be necessary, such as the FTC, ICE, or the ATF.
Whether you received something illegal or something small and silly, like a stress ball, Callina encouraged Amazon users to file reports with the company if their logo is on the packaging.
Additional service with Amazon and other delivery services is also an interest for thieves, like porch pirates. If a porch pirate sees an increase in packages delivered to your home, they could potentially steal something you actually ordered.
To reach the Metro Atlanta, Athens and North Georgia Better Business Bureau, give them a call at 404-766-0875 or email them here.