BBB Alert: Mysterious seeds from China possibly a brushing scam

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) People around 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.

Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) offers the below information if you receive this package.

In a scam known as “Brushing,” businesses will send their merchandise to your home in order to post a fake, positive review on their products.

In any case, receiving one of these packages could be bad news:

The fact that the items were sent to you as if you purchased them indicates scammers have some of your information, and may have also created an account in your name. 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.

The fake online review angle is only one way they benefit. By using the brushing scam, they also are increasing their sales numbers. After all, they aren’t really purchasing the items, since the payment goes right back to them. Increased sales numbers, even though padded with fake purchases, look good for the company and help lead to more sales.

What should you do if you receive mysterious seeds from China?

Contact the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Seeds can sometimes be invasive species, contain pests or pathogens, and their importation is usually highly regulated by the government. Do not plant them to see what grows or throw them away.

Notify the retailer. Look up the company who sent you the seeds. If you can find a listing on a 3rd party retailer, contact that company’s customer service and report the brushing scam.

Check your information. The package may be a sign that your personal information has been compromised. Change your password. Keep a close eye on your credit report, bank accounts and credit card bills. By looking up your name and address using a search engine, you can in some cases see how public your information has become. 

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