What to know about China’s mysterious seeds

A strange scam has been emerging in the mailboxes of Americans across the country.

From New York to Washington state, a growing number of people have recently reported receiving unsolicited shipments of seeds, which appear to have been shipped from China.

The United States Department of Agriculture says the baffling packages appear to be part of a “brushing scam,” where people receive never-ordered items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

The agency is urging residents to report the packages and issued the warning: “Do not plant seeds from unknown sources.”

Here is everything you need to know about the mysterious Chinese seeds:

What do they look like?

The packages look like standard mail, placed in light gray or beige envelopes, according to images shared by authorities.

Some of the labels indicate that the packages are rings, bracelets, or other jewelry, when they actually contain clear, sealable plastic bags filled with unidentified seeds of different sizes, shapes, and colors.

A New Jersey attorney told NJ.com that the package he received was labeled “Bonsai.”

Who is receiving them?

Residents of all 50 states reported receiving suspicious packages, according to CBS News.

Several local agriculture departments, including Pennsylvania and Delaware, said they have been notified about the people receiving the packages.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets told The Post Thursday that it has received more than 500 reports of the shipments. It is unclear if any were sent to New York City.

“Our office has received questions from some New Yorkers who have received unsolicited packages allegedly shipped from China that are marked as containing jewelry (or other items) but actually containing plant seeds,” said Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball, in a statement on Monday.

“Similar packages have been received in other states and the United States Department of Agriculture is investigating.”

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried said on Twitter Tuesday that the state had received more than 600 reports of suspicious seed packets.

Where are they coming from?

The packages “appear to come from China,” according to the USDA. On Monday, the agency said it was “aware that people across the country have received unsolicited packages of seeds from China.”

Shipping labels also indicate that they ship from China, including from Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai, Shenzhen in Guangdong province, and other areas.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin insisted Tuesday that the country’s postal service strictly follows restrictions on the shipment of seeds.

He claimed that the package records have been falsified and asked that they be sent to China for investigation.

What are the dangers?

Some states, including Washington and Alabama, have labeled the shipments as “agricultural contraband.”

Agriculture officials say it is crucial for people not to plant seeds so as not to introduce invasive species, which can displace or destroy native plants and insects, seriously damage crops, or cause disease.

“Legitimate seeds imported into the United States meet rigorous standards to ensure quality and prevent the introduction of invasive species, insects, and disease,” the New York State Department of Agriculture said in a statement.

“People who receive seeds that they did not order, that are mislabeled or that come from a questionable source should not plant or handle the seeds,” he warned.

What should you do if you get them?

Anyone receiving unsolicited packages should immediately contact local plant regulatory officials or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in their state, the USDA said.

“Save the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your state department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” the agency said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the seeds must be stored safely in a place where children and pets cannot access, authorities said.

Officials in New York said that due to a high volume of inquiries, they are asking residents to email the USDA directly at [email protected].

The USDA said it will test the seeds and determine if there is anything that may be of concern to US agriculture or the environment.

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