• Interesting piece in Digital Trends about the practice of “brushing,” a scam that “enables an online seller to submit positive reviews for their own products via fake accounts. Hiding behind one of the fake accounts, the online seller — or more likely a brushing firm hired by the seller — goes through the usual process of searching for an item on Amazon (or another e-commerce site) before making a purchase. This ‘normal’ activity makes it harder for Amazon to identify the account as fake, and so the company fails to spot the bogus reviews. In many cases, the review will be for an item of higher value than the one sent out. Amazon is constantly battling to rid its site of fake reviews, but the rogue sellers clearly aren’t giving up.”

One of the “tells” that brushing is taking place is when consumers complain that they are getting a seemingly never-ending stream of products from Amazon (or another e-commerce site) that they haven’t ordered and for which they are not charged. The products being ordered via the scam have to go somewhere, and so the brushing companies are simply choosing names and addresses that will make it all seem more legitimate.

It is hard to know how pervasive the scam is because, while there have been a number of stories recently in the press about it, there could be hundreds or even thousands of people who are getting free stuff and not complaining about it.