The Better Business Bureau for Northern Nevada and Utah and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is warning people not to plant packets of seeds they received unsolicited in the mail. The bureau suggests receiving the seeds could be an indication that recipients’ personal information online has been compromised, and the state worries the seeds could be invasive and pose a risk.
People around Utah and the country are receiving mysterious seed packets in the mail from China. While the shipping package may be mislabeled as jewelry or other merchandise, the contents are instead unlabeled seeds, according to the BBB.
According to Jane Rupp, president and CEO of BBB Serving Northern Nevada and Utah, it wouldn’t be the first time a company sent out unsolicited products to random houses.
In a scam known as “brushing,” businesses will send their merchandise to homes in order to post a fake, positive review on their products. But why go through the trouble of mailing someone merchandise instead of just posting the fake review?
“Often, retailers require reviewers to have actually bought the product. You can’t review something if you haven’t bought it. So, these shady businesses have to make it look like their fake reviews come from legitimate people,” said Rupp. “Because big retailers like Amazon verify and track addresses and packages through a third party like USPS, scammers can’t send packages to bogus places.”
Instead, scammers go online, find real addresses of real people, and create fake accounts. They then mail these unsuspecting people an actual product – or something completely unrelated to what they’re selling. After the tracking system confirms delivery, these scammers can then leave a “verified” review in someone else’s name. Not only do they have one more stellar review, they have also falsely inflated their sales to look more successful than they are.
In any case, receiving one of these packages is bad news for you.
“The fact that the items were sent indicates scammers have some of your information, and may have also created an account in your name,” said the BBB in an email. “Certainly, they have your name and address, and possibly, your phone number and a password. Once the information is out there, it could be used for numerous crooked enterprises.”
Meanwhile, officials with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food want Utahns who have received unsolicited seed packages from outside the U.S. to mail those packages to the UDAF’s Plant Industry Division for analysis. They can be sent to:
Utah Department of Agriculture and Food
ATTN: State Seed Lab
PO Box 146500
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-6500
UDAF’s State Seed Lab will continue identifying the seeds to determine whether they are on the federal or state noxious lists. Following the identification, the lab will destroy the material to prevent it from entering Utah’s ecosystem.
If residents cannot get the material to UDAF, they are asked to kill the seeds by baking them at 200 degrees for 40 minutes. Once the temperature and duration have been met, residents are encouraged to allow the seeds to cool and then throw them away. Do not put them in green waste for recycling.