TAMPA (WFLA) – The USDA believes mystery seeds Floridians have been receiving are part of a “brushing” scheme.
According to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service a brushing scheme is when unsolicited items are sent in order to post false customer reviews and boost online sales.
The seed packets, which may arrive unexpectedly in packages bearing Chinese characters, may bear the name China Post, and may be labeled as jewelry, have been reported in multiple states including Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and others.
As of July 28, FDACS has received at least 631 reports from Florida residents reporting having received suspicious seed packages. The type of the seed is unknown at this time.
“Plant seeds from unknown sources may introduce dangerous pathogens, diseases, or invasive species into Florida, putting agriculture and our state’s plant, animal, and human health at risk,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Anyone receiving these suspicious seed packets should not plant them, but should report it to our department immediately, so that our inspectors can safely collect them for analysis.”
The department said anyone who has received the seeds should not open the seed packet and avoid opening outer packaging or mailing materials. Do not plant the seed or throw them in the trash.
The packets should be reported to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov
Place the seed packet and mailing materials into a sealable plastic bag – this is important to determining the origin of the seeds
After reporting the seed package, an Inspector from the FDACS Division of Plant Industry will contact seed recipients to schedule a safe, contactless collection of the seeds, packaging, and mailing materials