BBB Scam Alert: Don’t plant mystery seeds from China
Milwaukee, Wis. – Unmarked seed packets are arriving in mailboxes around the United States 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.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is strongly encouraging recipients to not plant the seeds, but to instead save them, 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. Report it to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade & Consumer Protection using this online form. Experts also advise washing hands if accidentally handling the seeds, as a precaution. Recipients should hold on to 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.
APHIS is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and state departments of agriculture to prevent the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protect U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds. Sources at the U.S. Postal Inspector Services said they are also looking into the situation.
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. Looking up your own name and address using a search engine can, in some cases, reveal how public your information has become.
- 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.
BBB recently reported on an increase of brushing scams affecting consumers. It is not known if this is a brushing scam. Questions regarding shipments of unsolicited merchandise should be directed to your local BBB, or visit BBB.org.
For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2019, people turned to BBB more than 183 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.8 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.