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Crime & Safety
Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Do Not Plant Mailed Seeds From China

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Better Business Bureau
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Unmarked seed packets are arriving in mailboxes around the United States and Canada with no explanation or reason, and with a return address in China. The package bears the name "China Post," and may be labeled as jewelry, small electronics, or some other item. 

A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) official recently said in a statement that 14 different species of the seeds have been identified so far. They include seeds of flowering plants, herbs, and vegetables, and they believe this to likely be a form of a “brushing” scam. 

BBB recently reported an increase in brushing scams affecting consumers. Scammers mail lightweight packages - such as ping pong balls and seeds - to people who did not order the merchandise. They do this in order to create fake customer profiles with real names on e-commerce sites, and then create false positive reviews for their products or company. 

Out of precaution, the USDA is strongly encouraging recipients to save the seeds, along with the packaging and mailing label, in a plastic bag, and contact their state plant regulatory official or Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) state plant health director. Recipients should hold onto the seeds and the original packaging until someone from the state department of agriculture or APHIS contacts them. 

Under no circumstances should anyone plant the seeds. 

BBB recommends the following tips if one of these packets arrive in the mail: 

  • Check your personal information. The package may be a sign that your personal information has been compromised. Keep a close eye on your credit report, bank accounts and credit card bills. 
  • Do not open the seed packet and avoid opening outer packaging or mailing materials, if possible. 
  • Do not plant the seeds or discard them in trash that will be landfilled. 
  • Limit contact with the seed package until further guidance on handling, disposal, or collection is available from the USDA.