Emerging scam takes root in Alabama – Brushing

HARVEST, Ala - It's what officials from the Better Business Bureau are calling an emerging scam. You open the mail box and find a package you didn't order. Trust us, it's too good to be true. And it happened to a woman in Harvest.

Tammy Still opened her mailbox to find a package from the China Post she didn’t order. She opened it in front of WHNT News 19 cameras.

“I think I’ll dump the contents on the table. Look at that it's not even bejeweled or anything,” Still said.

Opening the package didn’t answer any of her lingering questions. There wasn’t a receipt nor any information about the sender.

“I didn't know if I would be billed for it. I mean you just don't know what could happen,” she said.

She lives in Harvest and is worried about how a company all the way in China got her information.

“I’m a retired federal employee and back in 2015 there was a big data breach of federal government employees security clearances,” she said.

She believes she is a victim of a brushing scam.

The President of BBB of North Alabama reviewed the package to give WHNT News 19 more information about the piece of mail.

“If you'll notice the first tip-off is that it says China Post and there is no there is no clear address. It doesn't look like the address is complete for the supposed company,” Elizabeth Garcia said.

She says the package is suspicious. There is also no way to return it.

She says brushing is an emerging scam. So far, there are no specific brushing reports on the BBB's scam tracker website.

“This could be the first report, the first local report.”

Victims of brushing scams are also victims of identity theft. Companies, normally from overseas, obtain a person's information and then send them several products. It's a way for the company to create fake online reviews.

“The marketplace is driven today largely by customer reviews. They're trying to bypass the authentication process that online marketplaces try to put into place to make sure that customer reviews are real and not fake,”Garcia said.

A postal inspector also examined the package.

“It would not cost hardly anything to send this, but the merchant that sent this out using this opportunity to give themselves raving reviews to make more money,” Tony Robinson said.

For a victim of brushing, it can feel like opening their mailbox was opening a can of worms. Robinson says there is no way to stop the packages from being sent and there is no way to get all of your stolen information out of the hands of criminals. That means victim need to be proactive to protect their money and their credit.

He says because there is no way to know how much of your personal information the company has, he recommends contacting the three credit reporting agencies and your bank.

Still shared her story with because she wanted answers. She says she is taking this advice to heart and hopes her experience serves as a warning to others who could be a target of this scam