JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 600 Floridians have reported being part of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture is calling a “brushing” scam in which they received un-ordered seed packages.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Monday raised concerns about unsolicited packages of seeds bearing Chinese characters and the name China Post that people are receiving in the mail. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is asking Floridians to report the “suspicious seed packages,” which might also be labeled as jewelry.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Tuesday advised that the packages appear to be part of a ploy to draw false customer reviews and boost online sales. The federal agency is also testing the seeds to evaluate their content and determine if they pose a risk to agriculture or the environment.
Christina, a Jacksonville woman, didn’t feel comfortable giving her full name, but she told News4Jax she found one of the packages in her mailbox.
The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on Tuesday reported that at least 631 Floridians reported receiving the seed packages, up from 160 on Monday.
The state agency also instructed people not to open the packages or throw the seeds away. Instead, the packages should be put in a sealable plastic bag and reported to the state’s Division of Plant Industry, Fried’s office said in a press release issued Tuesday.
“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,” Fried said in the release.
Similar packages have been reported in Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Utah.