Mysterious seeds that appear to be shipped from China are showing up in at least 28 states in the United States and in Britain. The seeds are arriving in unordered packages at the homes of residents in both countries. The USDA believes they may be part of a “brushing scam” to boost an online seller with false reviews, but residents are still disturbed by the unexpected arrivals, NBC News reported.
Here’s what you need to know:
At Least 28 States Have Received the Mysterious Seeds
Residents in at least 28 states have received the strange seed packets, NBC News reported. States have issued warnings, advising residents not to plant the seeds in case they are invasive species. The packages have Chinese writing on them and often contain only a packet of unidentified seeds. Sometimes the packages also contain jewelry or another inexpensive item. The packages are sometimes white and say China Post somewhere on the package, but the seeds also sometimes arrive in yellow envelopes, according to NBC News.
NBC News reported that public warnings were issued in the following states: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington state, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The USDA has said there is no evidence this is anything but a “brushing scam.” According to the Better Business Bureau, a brushing scam occurs when an unordered box arrives at someone’s home. The seller who “bought” the item then posts a fake review, acting like they received the item, in order to boost their own seller rating. They don’t lose out on money because they paid themselves for the item, essentially. These items typically come in Amazon boxes, but not always.
The USDA said about the seeds from China:
USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.
At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.
The seeds are not all the same plant species and they haven’t all been identified. Here is what some of the seeds look like. This first photo is from the USDA: