Do Not Plant These Mystery Seeds

Illustration for article titled Do Not Plant These Mystery Seeds

Photo: N E O 6 i A M (Shutterstock)

Nobody knows why people across the country are getting unsolicited packages of seeds from China, but the USDA is trying to figure it out. In a statement this week, they gave some advice on what to do if you receive one of these packages.

If you receive seeds in the mail that you did not order:

  • Do not plant them
  • Save all the packaging, including the mailing label
  • Contact state regulators

So, whom do you notify about this? The USDA says you can look at this webpage to find your state plant regulatory official, or this one to find your state plant health director.

Regulators’ best guess is that this is a brushing scam. In this type of scam, a company buys its own items, usually inexpensive ones, and ships them to honestly it doesn’t matter who. The point is to have a purchase on record, so that the scammer can write a glowing review that looks like it came from a real customer.

So if this is a brushing scam, you’re more of a bystander than a victim. The only caveat on that is that the Better Business Bureau, speaking about brushing scams in general, points out that the scammer must have gotten your address somehow, which means that your personal information may have been part of a breach.

In general, if you receive something you didn’t order in the mail, you can keep it. But the seeds are a concern to the USDA because, well, what are they? They could be invasive species, and seeds can possibly carry pests. Whatever they are, don’t plant them. Save the package, and contact your state regulators.