BBB Scam Alert: Don’t Plant Mystery Seeds From China



Unmarked seed packets are arriving in mailboxes around the United States with no explanation or reason, and with a return address in China. The package bears the name “China Post” and may be labeled as jewelry, small electronics, or some other item.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is strongly encouraging recipients to not plant the seeds, but to instead save them, along with the packaging and mailing label, in a plastic bag, and contact their state plant regulatory official or Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) state plant health director. Experts also advise washing hands if accidentally handling the seeds, as a precaution. Recipients should hold on to the seeds, and the original packaging, until someone from the state department of agriculture or APHIS contacts them. Under no circumstances should anyone plant the seeds.

APHIS is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and state departments of agriculture to prevent the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protect U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds. Sources at the U.S. Postal Inspector Services said they are also looking into the situation.

BBB recommends the following tips if one of these packets arrive in the mail:

  • Check your personal information. The package may be a sign that your personal information has been compromised. Keep a close eye on your credit report, bank accounts and credit card bills. Looking up your own name and address using a search engine can, in some cases, reveal how public your information has become.
  • Do not open the seed packet and avoid opening outer packaging or mailing materials, if possible.
  • Do not plant the seeds or discard them in trash that will be landfilled.
  • Limit contact with the seed package until further guidance on handling, disposal, or collection is available from the USDA.

BBB recently reported on an increase of brushing scams affecting consumers. It is not known if this is a brushing scam. Questions regarding shipments of unsolicited merchandise should be directed to your local BBB, or visit BBB.org.

Report possible scams to BBB Scam Tracker.  Sign up for BBB Scam Alerts.

Information courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

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