People are Receiving Unsolicited Packages of Seeds in the Mail From China. Here’s What You Need to Know

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on August 12, 2020

People in all 50 states have reported receiving packages of seeds in the mail that they weren’t expecting, according to CBS News. The mysterious packages have also shown up in Canada. They are marked with the words “China Post.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said “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.”

China Post has said the labels are “fake” and has asked the U.S. Postal Service to send the packages back to China so they can investigate.

“Treat them like they’re radioactive. Treat them like they’re kryptonite,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said, adding not to throw them in the trash or otherwise dispose of them. The USDA instructs anyone who receives an unrequested package of seeds from overseas to immediately contact their state plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director, where they can be disposed of correctly.

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“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your state department of agriculture or A.P.H.I.S. contacts you with further instructions,” the USDA said in a statement. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”

Osama El-Lissy, with the Plant Protection program of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said 14 species have been identified. These include mustard, cabbage, morning glory, mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, hibiscus and rose.

Newsweek reports that it’s not just seeds. Other items are showing up unasked for from China, including masks, sunglasses and socks.

Ray Walsh, a data privacy expert at ProPrivacy, told Newsweek that this constitutes a privacy concern. “Anybody who receives an unexpected package needs to be aware that their data is being misused by the seller.” She added that there’s no evidence this kind of scam is leading to bank fraud or identity theft, but that it’s “theoretically possible.” The IndyStar reports that anyone who has received a package they didn’t request should change their passwords for online shopping accounts and monitor their credit cards for unauthorized activity.


Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow Aliya on Twitter @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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