Shakopee couple's mystery packages shed light on 'brushing' scheme

Packages are showing up to some people's houses labeled with their names and addresses – but they didn't order them.

It’s called "brushing," designed to boost seller ratings on Amazon. Now, a couple from Shakopee thinks they were a part of it.

While it some may think it’s great to receive unexpected goods, it raises troubling questions about one’s personal information.

Scott Lawrence thought it was odd when he received a package from Amazon with an LED plant light he never ordered or purchased. But when it was soon followed by a set of placemats, a pair of sunglasses and a bag of foam hair curlers, he knew something was wrong.

“Is it fun getting free stuff? Yeah, but it’s not going to be fun for much longer when we're like, ‘this is getting concerning and there is nothing we can do about it,’" he said.

Brushing often involves setting up fake accounts, sending products to real addresses and writing fake reviews. In these instances, companies - usually overseas - set up fake accounts, send their products to real addresses here in the U.S., then write fake glowing reviews from those accounts to boost their ranking in Amazon search results.

"How did they get my information? How did they get my address? What other information do they have?"

Lawrence said the packages were addressed to him, but didn't have order numbers, invoices or packing slips/making them impossible to return to Amazon.

The Better Business Bureau said even though "brushing" victims may be getting something for nothing, it comes at a cost.

"The biggest issue with this is consumers rely on these consumer reviews to help them make more informed purchases and when you have these fake reviews in the marketplace, it’s hard to gauge which is true and which is fake and that undermines the integrity of such reviews."

Lawrence plans on using the items he got as white elephant gifts this Christmas, but he wishes someone would shed some light on why he started receiving them in the first place.

"I will say it’s an invasion of privacy. We've all got those phone call scams, lower your credit card rates, but now you've entered my home."

The BBB said if you receive packages you didn't order, make sure you report it to them, Amazon and even the Inspector General so there is a record of what is going on.