Chinese packages sent by scammers
Madison countians are among thousands across the country to report mysterious unsolicited packages they have received from Chinese addresses, often containing a face mask and seeds.
“I did not order this but it was sent to my mailbox,” Carolyn Grace Fisher shared in a Madison County Facebook group. She noted in another post that the package did not contain seeds.
Joe Giuffrian responded saying she, too, received an unsolicited package from China in a black envelope.
Both envelopes had return addresses from Shanghai, China.
Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson released a statement on Tuesday, instructing anyone receiving packages of unsolicited seeds from any foreign country in recent days to immediately contact the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce’s Bureau of Plant Industry.
The release says that the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce and the USDA do not have evidence that indicates this is anything other than a scam known as “brushing.” A “brushing scam” is when people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. That scam can involve many different random products, but the release notes that foreign seeds could be an environmental threat.
“If you have received these seeds, please call the Bureau of Plant Industry, and we will send an inspector to your location to pick up the seeds from you,” Gipson said. “Please don’t plant the seeds. I don’t want to scare people because there is no indication these seeds pose a danger to human health. But any foreign seeds can have a negative impact on our environment as a threat to plant and animal health, and to agriculture. Also, foreign seeds could carry fungi or pests which could cause great destruction to our native ecosystem. So, I can’t stress enough the importance of contacting our office regarding this matter. Your assistance will help us to prevent the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds into the country and protect against invasive pests and noxious weeds.”
Those receiving the seeds are instructed to hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label until someone from MDAC’s Bureau of Plant Industry contacts you with further instructions. Recipients have also been instructed to not plant seeds from unknown origins.
“We are aware that citizens in Mississippi, as well as other states, have received unsolicited packages of seed appearing to be from China over the last few days,” Gipson said. “We are working closely with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on this issue.”
USDA is currently collecting seed packages as well from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.
Local law enforcement said that they had not received official reports of the scam. Madison Police Captain Kevin Newman said they have not received any reports of the packages, but would refer any reports to the state agency.
“We have not received any calls regarding the seeds,” Newman said. “If we do we would refer them to the AG Commissioner’s Office.”
Ridgeland Police Lieutenant Tony Willridge said that they had received no reports as well.
The MDAC can be reached by phoning (662) 325-3390.