Brushing

Fake reviews

Brushing is a type of fraud used in e-commerce that boosts a seller’s ratings by sending unsolicited products to individuals to raise order counts and substantiate fake reviews.

A seller can engage in brushing by paying someone a small amount to place a fake order, or just using another person’s information to place an order themselves. Because a shipment usually has to take place for an order to be considered valid by the e-commerce site, the seller will frequently ship an empty box or some cheap item. These fake orders, if unnoticed, can boost the seller’s rating, which can make it more likely that their items will appear at the top of search results on e-commerce sites.

Many e-commerce sites have recognized the problem and claim to actively combat brushing. Brushing also inflates the numbers reported on a company’s financial statements, and therefore it also attracts the scrutiny of investors and market regulators. For instance, the US Securities and Exchange Commission opened a probe to investigate the validity of their data when Alibaba reported revenue of more than $14 billion on Singles Day, a major gift-giving holiday celebrated in China.

In July 2020, thousands of packages of seeds marked with false descriptions such as earrings were received all over the world from China. The mysterious seeds caused biosecurity concerns but were thought to be another brushing scam. ‘China Post’ said that the mailing labels had been forged while Taiwan intended to fine a Chinese logistics company for transshipping contraband. After examining some of the packages, a Utah lab reported, ‘Our seed lab has identified the following: rose, amaranth (not Palmer), 2 mints, False Horse Balm, Self Heal, Lespedeza and Sweet Potato.’

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