Ever heard of a scammer practice called "brushing"?


Interesting article in yesterday’s Forbes (11/27/17).

Google this title:
Americans Are Receiving Unordered Parcels From Chinese E-Criminals – And Can’t Do Anything To Stop Them

Damn, we all are competing with some real resourceful and corrupt people in the e-commerce world.

Free Samples & Extreme Review/Rank manipulation

That wasn’t the article, this is:

Heaven McGeehan awoke one morning to find an unexpected package from China delivered to her Pennsylvania home. It was a small epacket – a special subsidized shipping option that the USPS offers Chinese merchants, effectively enabling them to ship a parcel from China to the U.S. for less than it costs to send that same parcel domestically – and when she opened it she found a small handful of black hair ties with cheap plastic hearts that had the word “Phoenix” emblazoned upon them.

She was bewildered. The package was clearly addressed to her – her name was correct and so was her address – but she wasn’t the one who placed the order and had no idea why someone in China would send it to her.

Then the following day it happened again: another unordered package from China arrived containing the same item. Then it happened again the following day, and again, and again, and again without end until the small, unsolicited parcels began piling up in McGeehan’s home.

“I receive at least one a day, sometimes multiple,” she explained.

She then sent me a photo of the haul that came in while she was away on a recent 7-day vacation:

Heaven McGeehan
Stack of hair ties that Heaven McGeehan received during a 7-day vacation.
Now that the intrigue is gone, McGeehan says that she just throws her “gifts” from China in the trash – where they probably belong.

But why are people in China sending some random woman in Pennsylvania free hair ties? Why would anyone put in the time, money, and effort to send a stranger on the other side of the world free stuff?

It’s called brushing, and even in China it’s illegal.

Brushing Up

Chinese agents shipping ridiculous amounts of hair ties to McGeehan is merely an unscrupulous way for them to fraudulently boost sales and obtain positive feedback for their clients’ products on e-commerce sites.

Basically, a “brushing” firm somehow got hold of McGeehan’s name and address – she imagines this happened from placing legitimate orders on AliExpress, the international wing of China’s Alibaba – and then created user profiles for “her” on the e-commerce sites that they wish to have higher sales ratings and favorable reviews on. They then shop for orders via the fake account, compare prices, and mimic everything an actual customer would do, before finally making a purchase from their client’s store. When delivery is confirmed, they then leave positive reviews that appear to the e-commerce platform as “verified.”

Heaven McGeehan
An example of what Americans are being sent by Chinese “brushers.”
More on Forbes: China & America Are Gearing Up For A Showdown Of Tech Titans In Southeast Asia

The hair ties that McGeehan receives are more than likely not the actual items the Chinese brushers are leaving reviews for. Basically, they are low cost stand-ins for the real products. It doesn’t really matter what is shipped in the packages in this case, as the person receiving it has nothing to do with the exchange. But at least McGeehan is actually receiving packages that contain something. I’ve also been receiving reports from unsuspecting and often confused people in the U.S. whose mailboxes are being filled with parcels from China which contain nothing.

A Numbers Game

Due to the unbalanced pricing policies of the United Postal Union and subsidies from the U.S. Postal Service, it costs people in China virtually nothing to ship small packages to the U.S. That, combined with the super cheap price they pay for the junk they ship, makes brushing a quick and cost effective way to move up the sales rankings – which means everything for e-commerce merchants.

On most major e-commerce platforms there are algorithms which rank and order sellers in relation to how many sales they make, how much positive feedback they receive, etc. There is a reason why some sellers appear on the first page of results while others are buried at the bottom where nobody is going to find them. Buyers, too, want to purchase from companies with the best reputations and the most experience, so competition for the top listings for popular products is fierce, and brushing is a way that some sellers are gaming the system.

Heaven McGeehan
The unordered items that Chinese brushers are sending to Americans.
Brushing actually works. In 2015, a team of researchers from the College of William and Mary tracked the sales of 4,109 sellers using brushing methods on Taobao and discovered that they were able to raise their rankings up to 10 times faster than they could via legitimate means. They also found that it was a relatively low risk tactic, as just 89 – or 2.2% – of the accounts they monitored were penalized.

The Loophole

There are various forms of brushing in China. Some involve bots, some consist of hiring people to buy products and leave reviews, some derive from hacking otherwise legitimate accounts, while others are, apparently, built upon using the identities of real people located in foreign countries and shipping them piles of unwanted mail.

Heaven McGeehan
These are the unordered packages that Heaven McGeehan receives on an almost daily basis.
More on Forbes: 7 Reasons Alibaba Is Becoming More Like ‘China’s Google’ Than Baidu

While brushing is illegal in China – and probably constitutes false advertising and mail fraud in the U.S. – in the case of McGeehan, the infringement is happening across international frontiers, which means that the offenders can operate with complete impunity.

In a world where goods can virtually be sent anywhere more or less freely, borders have become major loopholes for criminals to violate the laws of whatever country they are shipping goods to. For the most part, if the seller of a product is on the other side of an international line than the buyer then no rules, regulations, or laws apply; IP, consumer safety, and postal laws become moot, as the country where the offense originates is beyond the legal reach of the parties seeking retribution. Cross-border e-commerce has become the new “Wild West,” a place where anything goes – even sending random women on the other side of the world piles of unwanted hair ties.


lol weird my computer copied the text off the wrong rss


We are indeed. We first learned of this practice by translating spammer messages received in Buyer-Seller Messenger. Some typical examples from September, when this type of solicitation abruptly stopped appearing (thanks, Amazon!):

"Inquiry from Amazon customer

Build the Amazon explosion

Super 100,000 buyers of the army
Free FBA Brush!
Support brush: fake, defective goods, low-cost goods and so on
[High privacy] do. P Evaluation
?Short? the main keyword brush to high
Free shop feed, back

The world’s lowest cost to build the Amazon explosion models

In fact, there are more games are played, afraid you do not know
Would like to know more, plus exchange QQ group: "


"Return policy inquiry from Amazon customer

Build the Amazon explosion
Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Europe 5 countries FBA brush single!
The cost of only 30 + stay VP evaluation
[High privacy] do. P Evaluation
?Short? the main keyword brush to high
Free shop discount
The world’s lowest cost to build the Amazon explosion models
In fact, there are more games are played, afraid you do not know
Want to learn more, plus exchange QQ: "

I +suspect+ we’ve stopped receiving these because we are so diligent in reporting them that either the scammers noticed and placed us on a blacklist, or Amazon upped its game in filtering this crapola out, but I really don’t know for sure…at any rate, logic dictates that these nefarious folks are only doing this because it’s profitable for them - somebody must be taking them up on their offer.


They brushed right past one important point with only a small notation. We are subsidizing their shipping. Bad enough we have to do it for actual sellers shipping goods to customers, but also to do it for illegal activity.


Yeah that was the first thing I noticed.


The way you can fight back is to take them to the post office, unopened, and have them returned.

The post office will lose money and eventually put a stop to this.


That would work eventually but USPS does reacts very slowly to that sort of thing on its own.

I think this would be something that should involve the U.S Postal Inspector general maybe the FBI internet crime division as well.

Using U.S subsidies to conduct mail fraud is something that needs to be addressed.

I would hate to see any more money wasted for this fiasco.


Although the thread is long, that is exactly what is happening to this seller:

The Just Launched scammers, have been doing this for +at least a year+. They upload VALID tracking numbers and ship to:

+Any person+
+Any street address+
+Any city, Any state, USA+

instead of the actual person, who placed the order.

If the order is placed by a customer in NY, their order may wind up in +any+ of the lower 48 and show marked as, “Delivered”, on their account, although they received nothing.


Have to admit, they do make great hair bands, rubber bands, whatever they’re called. We received this one, with a heart, last year and the band is still good.



> The way you can fight back is to take them to the post office, unopened, and have them returned.
> The post office will lose money and eventually put a stop to this.

Yeah except when the packages come via Amazon’s own delivery force, and not via USPS or UPS. Then you have to call Amazon each time to set up a return and guess what? Each time you do it, it takes a 30-90 minute phone call (I’m not kidding…) because nobody in Amazon’s customer service has been trained to deal with these situations.

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