This is an ongoing collection of research our director, a trained researcher and librarian, has found to keep our followers informed.
If you’ve been on the Internet (like right now), you’ve probably noticed your friends or friends of your friends receiving mysterious packets of seeds in the mail. BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING, we request you please read the information we’ve gathered below. Don’t panic! But also keep informed about what you need to do if you’ve gotten those packages.
The Leading Theory: A Brushing Scam
This is the most accepted theory so far by many media sources and supported by the USDA as their leading theory.
Brushing scams are not new and have been talked about on the website for the Better Business Bureau. Usually, the companies running these scams are in foreign countries and call also just be third-party sellers from anywhere.
They steal your address and shopping information on sites like Amazon and Wish. Then they send you really cheap items (like seeds) to “verify” you are a customer. Those sites require legitimate shipping information to ironically avoid scamming. However, this scam still makes it appear you are giving them positive reviews and business on those sites. It improves their vendor ratings, which attracts more buyers to their products.Like most prevalent crime, there is much incentive and little risk in these scams from the perspective of the scammers.
A Description of the packages
- The packages appear to all be unsolicited.
- They are commonly mislabeled saying they contain toys or jewelry.
- They are postmarked to indicate they are shipped in from China.
- They do NOT indicate they have a phytosanitary certificate that ensures it is free of pests and diseases as mandated by import agreements between China and the United States.
Why this is possibly worrisome
Diseases, insects, non-native plants are not new to the United States, but they have caused havoc to the ecosystem. Asian carp in the Great Lakes have decimated local fish populations. Kudzu, a huge issue in the American southeast, is a perennial coiling vine native to large parts of East and Southeast Asia. It easily smothers and pulls down entire trees. It is that fast-growing and hardy in an environment that hasn’t had the chance to evolutionarily compete with it.
What to do if you get seeds in the mail
We invite you to use the following infograph wherever you think it would be useful!