Amazon customers caught up in scarf scam

Large scale “brushing” scam operating in the UK at the moment, to generate “fake” sales for products to improve visibility on Amazon search

I remember the first time I heard about this years ago, but then it was based on Alibaba and could work because they had no sales commissions to pay on the fake purchases and offline reimbursements. Then they started tracking the packages so fake empty boxes were sent at the lowest cost possible, and it has just continued to evolve from there. These retailer entities just see it as a “cost of doing business” to exploit whatever they can out of the marketplace’s design in order to give themselves additional promotion. For most, this is probably cheaper than whatever the marketplace is charging for preferred placement, so they choose this path instead.

I don’t know what the real solution might be, but this type of activity is going to continue as long as there is value to be generated from making it happen.


  • Marketplaces need to limit the amount of product data change on a listing/GTIN.
  • AI to validate order flows–limit “gift” shipments or not give full sales credit above a certain %, validate parcel details (delivery address uploaded match payment card details, as an offline check with parcel carrier).

If there is a substantial change (and substantial is debatable to the actual scope) then I think all “earned history” on that product needs to be reset. It was on the local news last night about the same situation happening with posts on social media - scammers would post something and get a lot of wide sharing distribution, then edit the post and turn it into something to scam, but maintaining the distribution reach that had been generated by the initial post’s content. Same with retail products that have sales history and then the entire product is being changed under the covers to substitute a new one. Both of these situations should reset all of that back down to zero and have it start over if there are changes deemed substantial to the original content, which would help reduce the reach and value of these attempts at fraud.

Ultimately, these systems have created a market and people are working to figure out how to exploit that market and its rules. That’s not new, just the technology and systems are introducing new and different ways to do that.