Get a surprise package? It might be from a scammer. Here’s what you need to do

ATLANTA — A package at the front door is addressed to you but you didn't order what is inside.

It’s something that is happening all over the country and here in Georgia. The problem really started to come to light when the Department of Agriculture sent out a warning about not planting seeds that were being delivered in packages from China.

But it's happening with all types of products, from electronics to clothes.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray reports that complaints about what are called brushing scams have been growing dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The first is this pretty cool little voltage meter,” said Brandi Zaccardi of the Better Business Bureau, showing Gray some of the items that have been coming to her own home.

She said packages were coming every day or so.

“The other item was this Chanel scarf, it was sent to my husband,” Zaccardi said.

She told Gray that the packages showed up to her home, but she never ordered any of the products.

“We order packages all the time so it’s not unusual for us to receive things in the mail but when we start to open them and say ‘Did you order this? Or did you?’ That’s the weird part,” Zaccardi said.

It's something called a brushing scam.

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Earlier this month Channel 2 Action News told you about those mysterious seeds showing up in the mail from China. It's likely the same idea.

Zaccardi knew what she was looking at when it happened to her because she works at the Better Business Bureau. They've seen a spike in this since the pandemic.

The scammers are likely masquerading as you on online marketplaces, giving those products they sent you high ratings.

“They’re using my reputation to make their products look better,” Zaccardi said.

Melissa Dodd received a sports bra in the mail over the weekend after ordering a sports bra from an online retailer.

“I’m like ‘who’s watching over my shoulder?’” Dodd said. “I was a little bit upset because I thought it was what I ordered and I was like, ‘tell me I didn’t pay $70 for this.’”

The real product came a couple of days later leaving Dodd with only questions and a product that doesn’t fit and she doesn’t want.

Dodd told Gray she has been trying to contact the seller.

“I have asked them multiple times who they are and they will not tell me,” Dodd said.

It's also more than just an inconvenience. If they have access to your profile at online retailers like Amazon, it means they may have access to your credit card too.

“My husband tells me he has a couple charges come through on his credit card that are not anything he has bought,” Zaccardi said.

So, what should you do if you receive one of these packages in the mail?

The very first thing people should do is reach out to the online retailer it is associated with, report it to them and then immediately change your passwords on that website or another retailer.

You should also start monitoring your credit card associated with that account because if they have access to your account they could also have access to your card, so you need to watch that over the next few days very carefully.

If you want to keep the items that showed up, the Federal Trade Commission says you have a legal right to keep what was sent to you.

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