Earlier this week, multiple news outlets picked up a very strange story. Residents from more than 15 states, as well as the District of Columbia, had been receiving packages full of unmarked seeds in the mail from China.
That’s weird, right?
Now, the absolute last thing you want in the mail right now is a mysterious package containing strange, possibly sinister seeds. We have enough going on right now without worrying about whatever is inside those packages.
The mailing envelopes may be labeled with the words “stud earrings” or just “jewelry.” Many of us order a lot of things online, and it’s possible that we just forgot about placing an order for jewelry, right? Especially if it’s coming from Wish or another Chinese discount site, where shipping often takes more than a month. Even if we’re certain that we didn’t place an order, it could be really expensive jewelry. There’s no harm in looking…
When you open the envelope, however, you’ll find small plastic packages that contain a handful of seeds. Clearly, there’s no jewelry inside. Just seeds. And you don’t even know what kind of seeds they are!
Michael Wallace of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warns anyone who receives mystery seed packets in the mail to exercise extreme caution.
“The concern is that these seeds may be invasive species. Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, destroy and displace native plants and insects, and severely damage crops as well as they may be harmful to people. We want to encourage people not to plant these seeds, not to open the packages, but to contact the state department of agriculture in the state where they reside so they can respond,” Wallace said.
Wallace recommends that instead of planting the seeds or throwing them in the trash, you should put them inside a sealed plastic container and contact your local department of agriculture for instructions on how to dispose of them. Unless properly sealed, the seeds could easily be spread through garbage trucks, waste stations, and landfills.
Authorities believe that this is what’s known as a brushing scam. The scammers find your name and address, then send you an unsolicited product in the mail for free. This boosts their sales numbers and allows them to post an online review in your name on platforms such as Etsy, Amazon, or eBay as a “verified customer.”
“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,” the USDA said in a statement on Tuesday.