US Officials Warn About 'Mystery Packets' From China

Is it a simple business scam, or something worse?
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2020 1:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – All 50 states are warning Americans about mysterious seed packages sent unsolicited to their doorsteps—mostly from China, USA Today reports. The US Dept. of Agriculture suspects a simple business scam, but some officials say it could be a poison pill to damage crops: "I've had people describe to me that the seeds are coated with something purple," an official at the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in Iowa tells Reuters. "I haven't had it in my hands yet, but it sounds an awful lot like a seed treatment." In Texas, meanwhile, Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller says the seed packets might contain "invasive species."

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"An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture," says Miller, per the San Angelo Standard-Times. The USDA has identified 14 seeds in the packets—"including mustard, cabbage, morning glory, and some of the herbs like mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, then other seeds like hibiscus and roses," they say—and suspect a so-called "brushing" scam is at work. In such a scam, vendors pay people to make orders and send them to strangers; then fake reviews pop up to support the product, Business Insider reports. The volume of shipments alone can help boost the product's success. The USDA says it's currently rounding up the packets and analyzing their contents.
(Read more China stories.)

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