BBB: Unmarked packages of seeds likely part of “Brushing Scam”

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 9:50 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Residents in the Sioux Falls area have recently been reporting that they’ve been receiving unmarked packages of seeds in the mail, that they didn’t order.

These mysterious packages bear a Chinese return address and may be labeled as jewelry, small electronics, or some other item.

These unsolicited packages of seeds aren’t just turning up in mailboxes in Sioux Falls. In fact, similar incidents have been reported in 27 states.

South Dakota Better Business Bureau Director, Jesse Schmidt, says these packages of seeds could be part of a “brushing scam,” where by sending you a package, a third-party company from China can use your information to boost the reviews on their product or website.

“Companies, like Amazon, require that reviews can be connected to an actual purchase so if this seller can show that they sent a product to your house, then they’ll also set up a fake account where you’ll fill out a positive review on their product,” Schmidt said.

While the BBB says a brushing scam is likely the source of the seeds, Schmidt warns that hasn’t been confirmed yet, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

“We don’t know what these seeds are, they could be an invasive species, so we would suggest that you not throw them in the trash can, and certainly don’t plant them,” Schmidt said.

With these mystery packages arriving in more than two dozen states, local departments of agriculture are sending out their own warnings, asking those who receive these seeds to keep the packaging and contact your state’s Department of Agriculture.

Schmidt says, while a brushing scam isn’t as threatening as a common credit card or social security scam if you receive a phony package in the mail, it’s probably still a good idea to change any old or commonly used online passwords you have.

“This is pretty innocuous, it doesn’t appear to be that big a deal, but it does tell us that your online information has been compromised somewhere along the way,” Schmidt said.

South Dakotans receiving unsolicited seeds in the mail should do the following:

  • Do not plant the seeds
  • Save the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label
  • Contact the SDDA at 605.773.5425 or email with the following information:
  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Date received
  • Number of packages

Minnesotans should do the following if they have received unsolicited packages of seeds.

  • Do not throw away the package or its contents.
  • Do not plant the seeds.
  • Contact Arrest the Pest line at 1-888-545-6684 or and provide your name, contact information, and the date the package was received.

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