Outdoors

'Brushing' scam: NC residents urged to not plant mystery seeds they didn't order

Posted July 28, 2020 5:22 a.m. EDT
Updated July 28, 2020 7:46 p.m. EDT

Many North Carolina residents are receiving packets of seeds and other items they never ordered. Now, officials are warning people to not plant these seeds, especially if they are from a foreign country.

According to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, seed shipments "from China or other foreign sources" could "be a pathway for introduction of invasive species, insects and plant diseases."

The scam has been reported across the country, including in Utah, where people are reporting strange packages from China that have jewelry labels on the outside but contain seeds on the inside.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture posted a photo of a similar package on Twitter, asking residents to not plant the seeds.

Some people in North Carolina have reported getting unsolicited packages of cheap items like seeds and rubber bands. Seeds should not be planted, officials urge.

The NCDACS said the mystery seeds may be part of an international internet scam known as “brushing.”

"According to the Better Business Bureau, foreign, third-party sellers use your address and Amazon information to generate a fake sale and positive review to boost their product ratings,” said Phil Wilson, director of the Plant Industry Division. “Seeds are just one of the items used in this scam, however, you could receive other inexpensive items such as rubber bands, plastic toys, or empty bags.”

Anyone who receives unsolicited orders is asked to save the contents and their shipping labels and contact the Plant Industry Division toll free at 800-206-9333 or newpest@ncagr.gov. Staff members will pick up the package for you.

According to the NCDACS, "North Carolina residents are not in violation of any regulations if they received these shipments, but they are the key to identifying and stopping future shipments."

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