Ala. (WAFF) - Have you received a package of seeds you didn’t order? You may be victim of the latest brushing scam sweeping across the U.S.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries says it has received thousands of phone calls about this very issue and set up an online survey to better understand how people received the “mystery seeds,” many of which are coming from China.
State inspectors have since collected hundreds of seed packages from people around Alabama, bringing them back to state labs for further testing. Interestingly enough, the seeds seem to be pretty harmless - many proving to be just flower, vegetable or herb seeds.
“We have not found any issues as far as unknown compounds that would be a danger to the public, and as far as the purity aspect in our seed lab, we have not found anything that would be invasive or noxious,” says Andy Tipton with the Alabama Department of Agriculture.
Still, the departments asks you drop off any mysterious seed packages to the extension office nearest you.
However, you may still be wondering - why are people even getting these seeds in the first place? State officials believe it’s part of what’s called a brushing scam.
The idea is that a company will create fake orders as a way to boost ratings and generate sales for a certain product. In order to fake a sale, a company must verify a shipment, so it might send you something inexpensive like seeds or even just an empty package. Then, the company will show that shipping receipt to claim it actually sent you something else, boosting sales numbers for that other product. The company might even try to post a fake review for the product in your name.
In faking this success, the company can then start to appear higher in Google search engines or on e-commerce sites.
So what does this mean for you? Captain Michael Johnson with the Huntsville Police Department says simply receiving the seeds isn’t something his team would investigate but that a brushing scam could lead to other, more traditional crimes. For example, if you’re somehow asked to give out more personal information and then start noticing suspicious activity in your bank account, then you’re advised to call police.
For now though, if you happen to receive a mysterious seed package - don’t open it or try to plant the seeds. Simply drop the package off at your county extension office.