CASPER, Wyo— The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) is working with the FBI, Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Service, and local agencies to investigate resident reports of unsolicited seeds that arrive by mail appearing to originate in China.
Packages have arrived at a least 3 Wyoming households, according to the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and Kemmerer Police Department. The phenomenon has also been reported in 22 states and in the UK.
“Our main concern is the potential for these seeds to introduce damaging pests or diseases that could harm U.S. agriculture,” the USDA said in release Friday, July 31.
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The agency also said the recipients “seem to be people who recently purchased something online,” and that the seeds are related to an online “brushing scam,” where sellers send unsolicited items to unsuspecting consumers and then post false reviews to boost sales.
“Consumers who received packages of unsolicited seeds may want to consider changing their password on the vendor’s website,” said the USDA. Consumers may also want to contact the eCommerce company if they are concerned that their account was compromised in any way or to complain about the fraudulent use of their personal information.”
The USDA said that. U.S. Customs had intercepted similar seed shipments in recent years.
The Kemmerer Police Department released notice Friday that a town resident had received one of the packages, and said it was committed getting them to Wyoming DOA-APHIS Plant Health Director Bruce Shambaugh.
The packages typically indicate that jewelry is inside.
The USDA advises:
• Save the seeds and the package they came in, including the mailing label.USDA
• Do not open the seed packets.
• Do not plant any of the seed.
• If the packets are already open, place all materials (seeds and packaging) into a zip lock
bag and seal it.
• Place everything (seeds and any packaging, including the mailing label) in a mailing
envelope. Please include your name, address, and phone number so that a State or Federal
agriculture official can contact you for additional information.
• Contact your State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director for instructions or where to send the package, to arrange a no-contact pick up, or to determine a convenient drop-off location.