After a long day at work, you begrudgingly make your way up the stairs to your second-floor apartment. You’re so wiped out that the only thing you want to do is collapse on the couch for 15 minutes once you walk in the door. 

Your cranky attitude immediately improves as you start up the stairs and see a box on your doormat. You don’t remember ordering anything. No one else in the family mentioned that they were expecting a package. Did someone send you a surprise?! You can’t wait to get to the top of the staircase and see what it is! 

Kit L.
Kit L.

We had this happen at our new apartment a few months after we moved in. The box we received was a queen size inflatable mattress with its own headboard. It wasn’t addressed to anyone in our household, so after a few days of the box taking up room in our foyer we decided to Facebook “stalk” the recipient to see if we could reunite the mattress with the person who needed it. As luck would have it, the rightful owner still lived in the complex and we were able to get it back to her. 

The Unordered Merchandise Was Addressed to Me…How?!

In our case, we know that our neighbor simply forgot to change her shipping address when she moved to a new unit. While trying to figure out what to do with the mattress, we were surprised by the number of stories of people receiving packages they didn’t order that WERE addressed to someone at their address. 

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If this has happened to you, it’s likely that the items you received are part of something called a “brushing scam.” According to the Better Business Bureau, brushing scams are often used by less-than-honest third-party sellers on marketplaces like Amazon. Somehow, they’ve found YOUR name and YOUR Idaho shipping address on the internet.  They’ll purchase some of their own product and fill in your contact info as the shipping address. That way it gets delivered to a “verified buyer” who can leave the company a glowing review for an amazing product. 


YOU are that verified buyer, but you’re not the one writing the review. They are! Whether the product is good or bad, they’ll leave themselves a 5-star review so that when others search for a similar product they feel good about what they’re about to purchase. Positive reviews and the number of purchases made from certain retailers bumps their rating on websites like Amazon, which usually results in a retailer making more sales. 

If this happens to you, it’s a good idea to change your account passwords and keep an eye on your credit reports, bank statements and credit card bills. It’s likely the scammers found your name and address on some easily searchable public database like ultra creepy Family Tree Now, but you can never be too careful about them getting even more sensitive information. 

What Do I Do With the Merchandise?

While the most memorable brushing scam had to do with mystery seeds shipping from China, others have reported getting some pretty cool stuff like Bluetooth speakers or robot vacuums. If the package was addressed to you, those are yours to keep! The Federal Trade Commission clearly states that on its website: 

By law, companies can’t send unordered merchandise to you, then demand payment. That means you never have to pay for things you get but didn’t order. You also don’t need to return unordered merchandise. You’re legally entitled to keep it as a free gift.

If you can find the name of the retailer, you can reach out to them to give it back out of guilt but many big retailers, including Amazon, don’t want to go through the hassle of return shipping and restocking the packages. They’ll likely tell you you can keep it. 

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