SEDALIA — A scam is making its way into mid-Missouri leaving unwanted packages in mailboxes.

The Better Business Bureau calls it "brushing," where sellers ship packages to businesses or a person's home that were never ordered. The seller then uses that transaction to write a positive — but made-up — review. 

“The ultimate motivation is to get a good review for the product on Amazon, and the more positive reviews you get, the more likely you are to get sales of that product," said Bill Matthews, a bureau consumer safety expert.

The danger in brushing is that it could indicate that a consumer's name, address and phone number have already been compromised. This leaves the victim vulnerable to potentially more nefarious scams.

One of those packages arrived at Trace Alberswerth's business in Sedalia with their address but an unknown name.

“We’ve been getting our neighbor’s mail all the time, they’ve been getting our mail, so it’s kinda wishy-washy, and I went to all my businesses next door but they can’t tell me anything, either," he said.

Alberswerth said he tried researching the owner and posted in a community Facebook group but had no luck.

The United States Postal Service says it's illegal for companies to send unsolicited mail to homes and write fraudulent reviews in the addressee's name. That means the recipient is allowed to keep the package.

In a public service announcement, U.S. Postal Inspector Andrea Avery said: “Whatever you do, don't pay for it and don't get conned if the sender follows up with a phone call. By law, unsolicited merchandise is yours to keep."

The bureau warns recipients may have received the delivery because the sender has their personal information like their name, address or phone number. The organization recommends changing account passwords routinely as the safest way to prevent personal information from being shared.

While shopping online this holiday season, the bureau said it's also important to watch for fake reviews. They are often very general without specific likes or dislikes of the product, have bad grammar, use the same adjectives and many are posted in the same day or just a few days apart from each other. Retailers like Amazon verify flag reviews as verified as coming from a real customer and allow shoppers to report potential scams.

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at mhart@mail.missouri.edu.

Recommended for you