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Seed scam reported

LANSING — Across the United States, people have been reporting receiving unsolicited packages containing seeds from China in the mail. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is warning residents who receive these packages not to open or plant the seeds. The seeds are usually sent in white packages displaying Chinese lettering and the words “China Post.” Most recipients say they did not order anything, and that the packaging was labeled as jewelry. Some recipients have reported ordering seeds on Amazon and receiving these seeds.

“If you receive unsolicited seeds from another country, do not plant them. If they are in sealed packaging, do not open the package,” said Mike Philip, director of MDARD’s Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division, in a news release. “We don’t know what type of seeds are in the packages, but we do know they come in a variety of sizes and colors, with some reported to be very tiny. These unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants or be harmful to livestock.”

The packages may be a part of a “brushing” scam. 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.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service’s Plant Protection and Quarantine Smuggling, Interdiction and Trade Compliance Unit is currently investigating this situation across the nation. If you receive an unsolicited package of seeds from China, hold on to the seeds, packaging and mailing label, and contact MDARD’s Customer Service Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 800-292-3939 or via MDA-Info@michigan.gov.

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