The bad seeds: DeKalb County receives first report of resident targeted by seed scamLeft: These seeds came in a package purportedly shipped from China. Right: The seeds inside the package. Do not plant these seeds. Images provided to Decaturish
DeKalb County, GA — If you got a weird package from China full of mysterious seeds, beware.
You are likely the target of a scam. And you shouldn’t plant those seeds.
The University of Georgia DeKalb County Extension Office’s recent newsletter said that on July 27 the office received its first report of unsolicited seeds from China. It was delivered via the U.S. Postal Service. A resident in Tucker who received them emailed photos to Decaturish.com.
The Extension Office said the packaging is often mislabeled as “accessories” and called the practice “agricultural smuggling.”
If you get the seeds, the Extension Office offers the following guidance:
1. DO NOT plant the seeds and if they are in a sealed package, do not open the sealed package. Also, DO NOT dispose of the seeds.
2. Anyone who has received unsolicited seeds in the mail from China or any other country is encouraged to contact the [Georgia Department of Agriculture] Seed Lab at 229-386-3145 or email SeedLab@agr.georgia.gov.
G.D.A. Seed Laboratory
PO Box 1507
Tifton, Georgia 31793
You should include your contact information when you send them.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture believes the packages are part of a “brushing scam.” According to the Better Business Bureau, a brushing scam involves sending unwanted products to people in an attempt to boost sales statistics.
“The companies, usually foreign, third-party sellers that are sending the items are simply using your address that they discovered online,” the BBB says. “Their intention is to make it appear as though you wrote a glowing online review of their merchandise, and that you are a verified buyer of that merchandise. They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products’ ratings, which means more sales for them. The payoff is highly profitable from their perspective.”
For the person who receives the seeds, it’s a warning that people have their personal information and may be using it in other forms of scams.
“The fact that someone was able to have the items sent to you as if you purchased them indicates that they probably have some of your personal information such as your name, address, and possibly, your phone number,” the BBB says. “Once the information is out there on the internet, it could be used for numerous crooked enterprises.
“The fake online review angle is only one way they benefit. By using the brushing scam, they also are increasing their sales numbers. After all, they aren’t really purchasing the items, since the payment goes right back to them. Increased sales numbers, even though padded with fake purchases, look good for the company and help lead to more sales.”
The BBB advises people targeted by these scams to notify the retailer that sent the packages, if applicable, and to change their account passwords.
“This may be a sign that personal information has been compromised and to improve account security, keep a close eye on credit reports and credit card bills,” the BBB says.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture is also warning people about the seeds.
Here’s the full press release from GDA:
The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) has been notified that several Georgia residents have received unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China. Recipients are strongly advised not to open the packages or plant the seeds.
“At this time, we are not sure what the seeds are and therefore are urging everyone to be exceedingly vigilant,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black says. “If you have received one of these packages in the mail, please use extreme caution by not touching the contents and securing the package in a plastic bag.”
The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them.
Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops. Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.
Anyone who has received unsolicited seeds in the mail from China or any other country is encouraged to contact the GDA Seed Lab at 229-386-3145 or email SeedLab@agr.georgia.gov
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