Over one million UK homes are said to have experienced a new ‘scam’ that has resulted in them receiving free products from third-party sellers trying to game the Amazon algorithms.
The so-called “brushing” scam, according to consumer watchdog Which?, is part of a scheme whereby third-party sellers on Amazon.com seek to get a foothold in the website’s competitive search system.
Amazon’s code favours items with top reviews and frequent sales.
So, by sending lots of low-cost goods to people who haven’t ordered them, scammers aim to lift themselves up the ranking by falsely recording the orders as real purchases.
The survey found that 4% of 1839 respondents, an estimated 1.1mln people nationally, said a member of their household had received an unordered product that was sent by an unknown person.
“Amazon needs to do more to thoroughly investigate instances of brushing scams and take strong action against sellers that are attempting to mislead consumers,” said Which?.
Many scammers do not stop there, according to the report.
Some create fake Amazon accounts associated with the unsolicited recipient’s address and post false product reviews to the site.
The scam has raised scrutiny over how data was breached and has also brought ire in regard to the unnecessary carbon footprint in delivering the items.
Amazon said: “‘brushing’ is a scheme affecting all online marketplaces.
“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… support for law enforcement organisations in their efforts to hold bad actors accountable.
“We strongly encourage those who have received unsolicited packages to report them to our customer services team so that we can investigate fully and take the appropriate actions.”
63% of respondents to Which? kept their mystery delivery with just 28% throwing them away, whilst the remainder gave them away.
Various products have been received including children and pet toys, an iPhone case, beauty products, medical gloves, and other items that can be cheaply shipped in mass volume.