Residents in Finland are receiving packages with Chinese characters on them containing small items they never ordered as part of an exploitation scheme known as “brushing.”
Brushing allows online retailers to game their review system by writing a positive review about a delivered item; the catch is, the vendor actually buys their own product via a fake account and mails it to a real, usually overseas, address.
Giving away real products to a real address for a coveted fake positive review is a small price to pay for mail-order companies trying to raise e-commerce clout, but it raises serious concerns, according to a Finnish University researcher.
“Since the personal information of people in brushing is used in [fake] profiles, it is a violation of privacy and data protection,” says the researcher. “…Although the brushing phenomenon is not related to the misuse of payment information, it is questionable if some parties use the data of individual consumers.”
Additionally, victims are often blacklisted from the very stores that used their address simply because they are associated with brushing.
The scale of the review scheme is enormous and taxes the system severely, says a professor who's been studying the practice.
“When hundreds of millions of packets are sent in vain, it loads the environment a lot,” said the professor.
The seemingly innocuous items brushing victims have reported receiving are generally very small and cheap trinkets that include: orange pepper, a parsley knife, plastic pots, hair dye, strange seeds, Christmas socks, a phone travel bag and bizarre pieces of plastic that appear to have no use.
Correspondingly, Americans have also reported instances of brushing from unsolicited Chinese parcels containing more junk.
Interetingly enough, shipping items around the world just for a positve review wouldn't seem cost effective, but what reportedly facilitates such a tactic is the US Postal Service subsidizing "super" low shipping rates to Chinese merchants.
China's relationship with America's postal system made news Monday after President Trump said it was "outrageous" how the "poisonous synthetic heroin fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China."
(PHOTO: James Leynse / Contributor / Getty Images)