BBB Alert: Mysterious seeds from China possibly a Brushing Scam

Posted on July 28, 2020 by Staff reports

People in Florida and around the country are receiving mysterious seed packets in the mail from China. While the shipping package may be mislabeled as jewelry or other merchandise, the contents are instead unlabeled seeds.

This is not the first time a company has sent out unsolicited products to random houses. BBB sees this type of scam periodically with different materials being sent through the mail.

In a scam known as “Brushing,” businesses will send their merchandise to your home in order to post a fake, positive review on their products. But why go through the trouble of mailing you merchandise instead of just posting the fake review?

Often, retailers require reviewers to have actually bought the product. You cannot review something if you have not bought it. So, these shady businesses have to make it look like their fake reviews come from legitimate people. Because big retailers like Amazon verify and track addresses and packages through a third party like USPS, scammers cannot send packages to bogus places.

Instead, scammers go online, find real addresses of real people, and create fake accounts. They then mail these unsuspecting people an actual product—or something completely unrelated to what they are selling. After the tracking system confirms delivery, these scammers can then leave a “verified” review in your name. Not only do they have one more stellar review, they have also falsely inflated their sales to look more successful than they are.

In any case, receiving one of these packages is bad news for you:

The fact that the items were sent to you as if you purchased them indicates scammers have some of your information and may have also created an account in your name. Certainly, they have your name and address, and possibly, your phone number and a password. Once the information is out there, it could be used for numerous crooked enterprises.

The fake online review angle is only one way they benefit. By using the brushing scam, they also are increasing their sales numbers. After all, they are not really purchasing the items since the payment goes right back to them. Increased sales numbers, even though padded with fake purchases, look good for the company, and help lead to more sales.

What should you do if you receive mysterious seeds from China?

  • Contact the Florida Department of Agriculture. Seeds can sometimes be invasive species, contain pests or pathogens, and their importation is usually highly regulated by the government. Do not plant them to see what grows or throw them away.
  • Notify the retailer. Look up the company who sent you the seeds. If you can find a listing on a 3rd party retailer, contact that company’s customer service, and report the brushing scam.
  • Check your information. The package may be a sign that your personal information has been compromised. Change your password. Keep a close eye on your credit report, bank accounts and credit card bills. By looking up your name and address using a search engine, you can in some cases see how public your information has become.