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My wife received a small package, containing a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses (whether original or fake I don't know) in a nice leather-looking case. It is addressed to her, correct name, street, postcode, and her mobile phone number printed on it. Declared with a value of $15 printed on it, and coming from a company in China.

Everything fine, except she never ordered any sunglasses, and she never paid for any sunglasses.

I know there are scams where scammers send rubbish items to random people, and that entitles them to post fake reviews on Amazon, for example. The only thing is, this isn't a rubbish item. Even if these sunglasses are fake, they would be worth some money.

Does anyone have an idea how either (a) a company in China could send goods to a random real person by mistake, or (b) what kind of scam would make it worth while to send an item that would probably cost £10 to £20 on Amazon?

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  • I've forgotten - say I buy something on Amazon, which is NOT delivered by Amazon, but is shipped out by one of the various modes of affiliates. In fact, do you get any paperwork at all with the package which mentions amazon, your amazon order, or something to do with Amazon? Or do you just get a random package from the third party, with no mention of Amazon?
    – Fattie
    Sep 22 '20 at 16:16
  • No paperwork at all. Just a little box, with my wife's address and phone number, and the address and phone number of a company (I assume) in China.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 22 '20 at 17:26
  • Is the information on the package identical to the information associated with your wife's Amazon account? I assume your wife does NOT have any new orders in her order history, or new reviews written from her account? If yes, and yes, then if this is an Amazon brushing scam, I'm surprised they can't detect this easily. I'd think it would be weird that many of the "verified orders" were not sent to a customer's verified address. Or, many of them were sent to the same address as some other customer's verified address that didn't make the order.
    – TTT
    Sep 23 '20 at 7:04
  • 3
    If your wife is waiting for any real orders from China, they might have just sent a completely wrong product by accident without any intent to scam. It happens.
    – jpa
    Sep 23 '20 at 11:10
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    @gnasher729 Part of the problem here is your misconception that brushing only happens with "OBVIOUS rubbish items". I know you didn't say "obvious" but that's what you think. Bottom line, you have been fooled by a competent fake. Personally I agree; I don't understand why brushers don't just ship rocks... since no one checks the package but them or you. Sep 23 '20 at 15:01
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This is common enough that it has a name, a "brushing scam". Newsweek quotes the USDA:

The USDA said in a statement: "At this time, we don't have any evidence indicating this is something other than a 'brushing scam' where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

More news coverage:

The scam is worth it because an item that costs the consumer £10 to £20 probably cost the manufacturer, especially one making counterfeit goods, about £5 or less including shipping.

That £5 loss from sending your wife and many other consumers is worth it apparently. They can say they delivered so many dozens or hundreds without delay and have positive reviews from the completed sale and delivery. It is a way to buy reputation and legitimacy.

I would be surprised if you got a real Ray Ban product. A casual search turned up dozens of sites like this one which list how to spot a fake by:

  • build quality
  • material selection
  • serial numbers

The sites that say how to identify fake sunglasses are run by competitors who make their money by selling legitimate designer sunglasses.

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  • 3
    To put this answer in context - if it cost maybe £5 per item shipped, and that created one 'verified purchase' review on Amazon, then 500 such shipments would make a 100 'verified purchase' review listing. Most items on Amazon have less than even 100 reviews, so imagine how much marketing power there is in doing this. I suspect the ongoing plague reviews on Amazon and other sites will seriously change how people shop online. Sep 22 '20 at 15:59
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    No sign whatsoever that Amazon has anything to do with it. Just a package with sunglasses in a nice case, my wive's address, and a Chinese company's address.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 22 '20 at 17:30
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    @Fattie I would assume the person who sent the product has a way of posting the review themselves. As long as the review itself is guaranteed, they aren't "losing money" just "spending an ad budget." For example, they created an account and plugged in a random shipping address they got from who-knows-where (which turned out to be the Gnashers.) Once they receive notification of delivery (via package tracking to their own email) they can go and post their fake review, whose contents they fully control.
    – Steve-O
    Sep 22 '20 at 18:33
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    This answer still doesn't really summarize the key point of the person posting the review not having the item shipped to them, but instead to some random address (which happens to be the OP's). I didn't understand that until getting through the comments and seeing @Steve-O's explanation, which would make a good answer of its own. Sep 23 '20 at 1:57
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    @J... I'm not sure where the Gnashers call home, but for me (Fort Worth, Texas, United States), property owner information (names and addresses) is publicly accessible by searching the tax appraisal district's website. It's completely plausible, if this information is public, that this scam can occur with no compromised systems (besides the defrauded seller). Sep 23 '20 at 13:48
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depends what was in the package and whether they asked for anything whether money review or otherwise

some larger packages contain drugs or goods ordered by a stolen credit card and delivered to a third party address by ups where someone follow the ups truck and removes the package before the fake name on it has a chance to find it

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In addition to the other answers, there is another possible scam.

The scammers may have opened a credit account in your wife's name and placed an order. Once the goods have arrived, they send a fake email, pretending to be from the merchant, and apologising for the mistake in sending the goods to the wrong person. They will send round a courier, to pick up the package at their expense.

The courier arrives and drives off with the package. The scammers now have some Ray Ban sunglasses, and your wife has a credit account she knows nothing about.

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