Amazon Brushing scam warning as 1million UK households potentially hit

As many as one million UK households could have fallen foul of a new scam that targets Amazon marketplace.

The 'brushing' scam aims to place low-quality products into prime position on Marketplace.

Research carried out by the reputable consumer watchdog Which? has found that it could have been carried out on 4% of the nation.

Which? carried out a survey of 1,839 people that accurately represented the UK's population, finding that 4% of participants had received mystery Amazon packages they hadn't ordered.

Scaling up the number of packages received to the population of the nation led to the terrifying realisation that 1.1 million British households could have been targeted in what is understood to be an attempt to improve how senders' brands fare on the hyper-competitive Amazon search rankings.

The packages, which were not sent by anyone known to the recipient and were not taken for a neighbour, were often found to contain items such as magnetic eyelashes, iPhone cases, medical gloves and toys for both pets and children, it is reported.

Which? reports that the items, which are cheap to make and ship abroad, often came from companies based in China that were trying to artificially give themselves a leg-up on the online retail giant's ranking system.

Packages containing these kinds of items are a 'hallmark' of the scam, with Which? saying it heard from multiple victims who had received such items.

How does brushing work?

Sellers, or people acting on their behalf, send an item that does not cost them much to an unsuspecting victim and then log it online as a genuine sale through the Marketplace platform.

The sale of the products mean they move higher on Amazon's system which benefits products that sell well and receive good reviews. By sending out large number of products its makes them appear to be better, more popular items than they are, leading unknowing consumers to buy products of lower quality.

With buyers rarely moving past the first page of their search results it benefits sellers to get their products as high up Amazon's rankings as possible.

What other issues are in play?

The scam raises legitimate concerns about how the addresses of people who have received brushing parcels were found in the first place

There are also concerns about the environmental impact of shipping such large quantities of cheap goods.

Rocio Concha Which?'s director of policy and advocacy said: "Consumers should be able to trust that the popularity and reviews of products they are buying online are genuine, so it is troubling that third-party sellers appear to be using brushing scams to game Amazon Marketplace.

"Amazon needs to do more to thoroughly investigate instances of brushing scams and take strong action against sellers that are attempting to mislead consumers."

Since Which?'s sensational findings, Amazon has said: "'Brushing' is a scheme affecting all online marketplaces.

"We estimate that less than 0.001% of Amazon orders are impacted by brushing as Amazon has robust processes in place to prevent abuse from impacting our reviews, search rankings and other customer experiences.

"We will never stop improving the sophistication of abuse prevention in our store, and we will continue to take the appropriate enforcement actions, including support for law enforcement organisations in their efforts to hold bad actors accountable.

Amazon are reportedly encouraging victims of the scam to contact their customer services 'immediately' if they received unwanted parcels.

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