The Hustle

All about ‘brushing,’ one of the seediest scams in ecommerce

Brushing has become one of the easiest ways to make a fake review look real.


July 30, 2020

It’s an agricultural whodunit: People in 28 states are receiving mysterious seed packets from China and Kyrgyzstan.

This isn’t a Jack and the Beanstalk situation. State agencies are warning not to plant them for fear they could be invasive — and they’re pretty sure the seeds are part of a “brushing” scam.

WTF are ‘brushing’ scams?

They work like this: A shady seller finds your info and registers a fake Amazon or AliExpress account in your name. Then they use it to buy, say, a packet of their own seeds.

When the goods arrive, the seller leaves a glowing review — now with a “verified buyer” tag.

Don’t brush off brushing

Last year, Amazon encouraged the “verified” elite to rate more purchases. The idea: Their ratings are trustworthy, so they could drown out paid reviews.

According to one study, brushers jacked up their search rankings 10x faster than unbrushed rivals. And only 2.2% of brushing accounts were caught.

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