BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Have you received any suspicious packages lately? You're not alone.
People all across the United States, including some here in Western New York, have opened their mailboxes to small white envelopes. The return address lists China and the labeled contents typically refer to some type of jewelry.
Inside the envelope isn't jewelry... instead, you'll find planting seeds. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, their office has received numerous inquiries and is currently investigating. While the return address lists countries like China, the exact origin of these packages is still unknown.
They suggest those that receive a strange package, possibly containing seeds, should do the following:
- do not plant or handle them
- store them safely in a place away from children and/or pets
- mail the sealed package of seeds, the original packaging, the residents’ contact information, and any additional relevant details directly to the USDA at:
Office of the State Plant Health Director of New York c/o Christopher Zaloga,
United States Department of Agriculture
500 New Karner Rd.
Albany, NY 12205
The USDA says as of now it believes this is a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller and the seller posts false customer reviews to boost sales.
"Seeds imported into the United States are rigorously tested to ensure quality and prevent introduction of invasive species, insects and diseases," NYS Commissioner of Agriculture, Richard Ball, said. "We will continue to monitor this issue and will pass along guidance as it is received from USDA.”
The Better Business Bureau of Upstate NY also suggests taking additional precautions once you contact the USDA.
- Notify the retailer: look up the company that 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 passwords and 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.
- File a BBB Scam Tracker report by visiting BBB.org/scamtracker