Great, Another Reason to Side-Eye Surprise Packages

It's exhausting, being suspicious all the time. We have to worry about scammers on Venmo, on the rental market, while applying for jobs, and while we're filing our taxes. We shouldn't have to keep on our toes when a package arrives from Amazon.

That's how things are playing out now, though. This week, Mental Floss highlighted an increasingly popular e-commerce scam called "brushing." The good (or at least, one hopes) news is that even if it's not a gift, you may get something for free out of it. The bad news is that's because someone has stolen your personal information.

Basically, the person receiving the package is incidental to the con. Scammers mail out products they sell or manufacture, using addresses they've picked up from a data breach. They then give their own product positive reviews on whatever online marketplace they're using, which also notes an uptick in orders. You likely won't have a return address for the shipment, so if it's something innocuous, don't feel bad about keeping it or tossing it. If, however, the package contains something less savory, like drugs or weapons, it's time to (very carefully) get law enforcement involved.

If you're concerned about identity theft, visit the website Have I Been Pwned?, which will check for your email addresses in a database of known hacks and data breaches. Be sure to contact the seller's website too — if it's Amazon, for instance, the Returns Center can help trace the account and shut it down. And if the package comes with a note and a gift receipt, stand down — sometimes, that suspicious box really is just a present.