In what is definitely one of the stranger consumer mysteries lately, officials from multiple state agriculture agencies are warning Americans about mystery seeds that have arrived unprompted in mailboxes recently.

Yes, seeds.

New Jersey is the latest state to have their Department of Agriculture weigh in to warn people not to plant the seeds if they show up in your mailbox.

According to the New York Times, people in at least half a dozen states have recently gotten small packets in the mail that appear to originate from China.

Upon opening the package, recipients are finding that the only thing inside are a handful of seeds.

Here's what the packets look like, from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's official Facebook page:

The concern is that the packages don't include any documentation to say what the seeds are, and they could be an invasive species that might ravage our local agriculture.

So, why are people getting these completely unprompted seed packets?

The Times article speculates that it could be part of a scheme that has nothing to do with plants at all - an effort to fraudulently raise a seller's online reviews.

The scheme is called "brushing". Here's how the Whitehouse (Ohio) Police Department describes the 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 Times says that the scam has been verified in Washington, Louisiana, Ohio, Kansas, Virginia, and Kentucky, and social media activity says that it's made its way into New Jersey, too.

If you get mystery seeds in the mail that appear to have come from China, the NJ Department of Agriculture says that whatever you do, don't plant them, and report it to the USDA.

 

 

Enter your number to get our free mobile app