Cyber Alert: Brushing Scams

A Cyber Alert has been issued from Police Scotland Cyber Crime Prevention Team on Brushing Scams.

Brushing is a deceitful technique sometimes used in e-commerce to boost a seller's ratings by creating fake orders.

ALERT

Most e-commerce websites rate sellers by multiple criteria, and display the seller ratings to customers.

Since good ratings can boost sales, these ratings are very important to sellers along with the number of items sold being an important factor in that rating. Brushing scams consists of generating fake orders to boost the rating.

A seller can do this by paying someone a small amount to place a fake order, or just using another person's information (often without their consent) to place an order themselves. Because a shipment usually has to take place for an order to be considered valid by the e-commerce website, the seller may 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 the seller’s items will appear at the top of search results on e-commerce websites. The deliveries arrive addressed to residents who didn't order the items and the seller will then post false customer reviews to boost their sales.

Scammers mail lightweight (inexpensive to ship) packages, such as rings, face mask and recently Scottish households have been receiving small parcels containing seeds in the post from China/Singapore as part of a likely scam.

Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) have the following advice for households in Scotland if you receive an unsolicited parcel and suspect it to contain seeds. SASA urges those receiving seeds to take the following actions:

• If the packet of seeds has not been opened, please leave it sealed.

• DO NOT PLANT OR COMPOST THESE SEEDS.

It is possible that these seeds could be a harmful invasive species or harbour a disease both of which if released could pose a threat to agriculture and the environment.

• Do not handle the seeds These seeds may have been treated with a chemical pesticide. Please wash your hands if you have handled them without gloves. Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) is collecting these unsolicited packets of seeds for analysis.

It is asking for your co-operation to send these seeds to SASA and further details are available at the following link http://www.sasa.gov.uk/content/unsolicited-seeds

If you receive an unexpected parcel and believe you may have been the victim of brushing scams then immediately notify the e-commerce retailer.

If you have an account with the e-commerce retailer please change your passwords. You can check if your personal details have been part of a data breach on www.haveibeenpwned.com

Further information on identity theft and how to protect yourself is available at https://www.scotland.police.uk/keep-safe/advice-for-victims-of-crime/fraud/identity-theft/

Please see www.cyberaware.gov.uk for further advice on how to keep safe online.

If you receive unsolicited or unusual emails or texts (Phishing / Smishing) please don’t respond directly. Back it up with a phone call, using a number not linked to the email or text, to make sure the request is genuine.

You can report suspicious emails by forwarding the original message to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at [email protected]

You can also report suspicious texts by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad.

If you have been a victim of an online crime report it to police Scotland on 101.

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