The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) is aware of the unsolicited packages of seeds originating from China. At this time, recent reports indicate that unsolicited packages of seeds have been received by people in Utah, Virginia, Washington and the United Kingdom. LDAF requests that anyone who receives a package that was not ordered by the recipient, to please call the LDAF at 225-925-4733 to properly dispose of the seeds. Go to https://www.ldaf.state.la.us/ for more information.

Many open source articles have reported on the unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them. If you have received any of these please store the seeds safely inside a zip top bag and do not plant the seeds.

The packages, based on photographs and statements from officials, appeared to have been shipped by China’s state-owned postal company and contained Chinese lettering on the exterior, advertising products ranging from jewelry to toys. But, what’s actually inside seem to be random plant seeds. States from coast to coast have been urging residents to report the unexpected deliveries to their local agriculture departments over concerns that the seeds could be invasive or harmful species. The packages have garnered the attention of federal investigators -- with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) working alongside the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and other federal and state agencies. The USDA says not to plant seeds from unknown origins.

While there does not appear to be a clear pattern to the packages, which have been showing up at homes in the city, suburbs, and in rural areas, it does appear that these seeds are tied with an online scam called ‘brushing’. A brushing scam is an exploit by a vendor used to bolster product ratings and increase visibility online by shipping an inexpensive product to an unwitting receiver and then submitting positive reviews on the receiver’s behalf under the guise of a verified owner.

 

This is not the first time this type of scam has surfaced. In 2018, a Massachusetts couple who kept receiving mystery packages from Amazon containing items ranging from USB-powered humidifiers to rechargeable dog collars feared they were being targeted. The scam works as a seller trying to boost the ratings of their own merchandise sets up a fake email account to create an Amazon profile, then purchases the items with a gift card and ships them to the address of a random person. Once the package is delivered, the owner of the Amazon account is then listed as a “verified buyer” of the product and can write a positive review of it that gets higher placement on product pages because of their status. At this time the deliveries of the plant seeds are widespread and it's not immediately clear which e-commerce website the fake reviews may be appearing on, if this is the motive behind the packages.

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