Unsolicited packages arriving at island homes are part of an international scam, BBB says
COURTENAY, B.C. -- Free, unsolicited gifts could be headed to your doorstep, but the president and CEO of the Vancouver Island Better Business Bureau says it should trigger some concerns for you.
Rosalind Scott says an international "brushing scam" that has surfaced in other locations across Canada appears to have now arrived on the island.
"(A) brushing scam is when a package that you didn't order arrives on your doorstep," Scott says.
She says the product usually comes from Amazon, but could also come directly from a retailer. Either way, the company of origin is usually from China.
"The good news is you can keep the product, you don't have to pay for it and you can keep it," Scott says. "The bad news is the product is probably worthless and could even be defective."
Scott says seeds and a fake scarf are two items that have been registered as arriving on the island through a "scamtracker" system on the Better Business Bureau website.
Scott says retailers are shipping out items of next to no value and are hoping consumers will open them.
"They're using the fact that it arrived on somebody's doorstep and somebody opened it to take that opportunity to put a fake, glowing review on their website," she says.
Scott says that can increase their sales as much as tenfold, so it's a very interesting, different kind of scam.
Port McNeill resident Rob Hilts says he's now received four different unsolicited packages through the mail. The first three were wigs and the fourth was a respirator.
"At first I thought it was a friend making a joke or somebody online making a joke or messing around with me, but they keep coming, they don't stop," Hilts says.
Hilts took the first packages back to the post office for return, but the sender's addresses, all from international locations, were illegible.
He says postal employees were just as confused as to what was going on.
"The managers and the staff at the post office were kind of weirded out by it. They couldn't understand what was going on. They had never heard of random packages being mailed to anyone in town here," Hilts says.
Scott says the arrival of a package could signify that your identity has been compromised or is about to be.
"That retailer in China may not be doing identity theft, but they may sell the information to other scammers and that is scary," she says. "That's why we say don't try to contact those retailers because they may ask for more information that you don't want to give them."
Hilts, who utilizes Amazon regularly, says he has already changed his username and password and has been in touch with the company's customer service department to report his problems.