BBB Tips: What if Your Business Was Used as Part of a Brushing Scam?

Brushing scams can result in confusion for your business and distrust from your consumers. But what can you do? Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland offers three tips for victims of brushing.

Brushing scams can result in confusion for your business and distrust from your consumers. But what can you do? Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland offers three tips for victims of brushing.

By: Better Business Bureau® Serving Greater Cleveland

Recently, a local automotive supplies manufacturer contacted Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Greater Cleveland about concerns that their products were unwillingly and unknowingly used as a part of a “brushing” scam. A brushing scam occurs when a third-party company ships items to unsuspecting consumers and then uses the transaction to improve its ranking on popular e-commerce sites. The local company was alerted to the activity by senior citizens who were surprised to receive packages. At first glance, brushing scams themselves seem innocuous. A consumer may not be aware they are a victim of a brushing scam when they suddenly start receiving unordered merchandise. However, both scammers and unscrupulous businesses will order products and use a “dummy” address of a consumer to give the impression the individual at the address is a “verified” buyer of a product on a third-party platform such as The scammer repeats until they boost their own products’ ratings and sales numbers. Businesses may be concerned or confused when they start receiving reports from consumers about products they never ordered. Some consumers may be distressed that they are on the hook for product charges even though, by law, consumers do not have to pay for items they did not order. That does not mean consumers may still not be confused or worried they are getting scammed and blame the company they are receiving items from. What can businesses do? BBB Serving Greater Cleveland recommends companies who believe they are victims of brushing should:

  • Review Customer Orders – Once a business realizes its products are being used as part of a brushing scam, staff should start reviewing their recent order history for any “red flags.” The red flags can take the form of out-of-country IP addresses, IP addresses that don’t match the consumer’s location, orders using fake phone numbers, and orders that have different billing and shipping addresses. These characteristics are not necessarily 100% indicators of a brushing scam, but they are details that should be cross-referenced with information on known addresses used for brushing orders. Once abusive accounts and corresponding IP addresses are identified, companies can block these (or “blacklist” them) from accessing their website.
  • Secure Your eCommerce Website – Companies can help prevent brushing by implementing a few authentication methods for users placing orders on their websites. Additionally, both of the following tips are recommended to enhance cybersecurity by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) which is part of the US Department of Commerce.
    • Use a CAPTCHA Generator  – CAPTCHA stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart.” CAPTCHA tests are designed to help a website differentiate between machine and human users. Installing a CAPTCHA generator on a company’s e-commerce website can help prevent bots from using a website to place large amounts of orders for brushing.
    • Use Multi-Factor Authentication – Companies can also help prevent brushing by implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) on their websites. Requiring verification of a phone number or email address may discourage companies from engaging in brushing because fake information cannot be easily used.
  • Let Consumers Know – Posting an alert or notification on a company webpage, social media, or BBB Business Profile won’t necessarily stop bad actors from brushing company products. It will, however, show consumers a company is engaged and aware of the problem. It also helps educate and show the public that the company is as much a victim of a brushing scam as the consumer is.

Additionally, companies can advise consumers to refuse shipments of unwanted and unopened merchandise. This requires minimal effort on the consumers’ part. It is a way a package can be returned to the sender and a company can recover a product that may have been otherwise thrown away. Remember to also include a company contact in announcements and encourage consumers to report the scam. The information consumers provide can be useful in identifying bad accounts.

Finally, companies should also remember that, oftentimes, the perpetrators behind brushing scams are never identified. These businesses are typically located overseas, in foreign countries where USA-based companies have little legal recourse. If you are a consumer who has been affected by this type of scam, you can read more about brushing scams here.

For additional tips and resources, visit to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation


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