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BBB: Mysterious seeds from China possibly a Brushing Scam

FRESNO, Calif. ( — People receiving unsolicited mislabeled packages of seeds from China are victims of a possible ‘Brushing Scam’ and their personal information might be compromised, according to the Better Business Bureau.

According to Jane Rupp, President and CEO of BBB Serving Northern Nevada and Utah, it wouldn’t be the first time a company sent out unsolicited products to random houses.

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 can’t review something if you haven’t bought it. So, these shady businesses have to make it look like their fake reviews come from legitimate people,” said Rupp. “Because big retailers like Amazon verify and track addresses and packages through a third party like USPS, scammers can’t 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’re 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 aren’t 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 your state’s branch of the U.S. 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.

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Related Article: People are receiving an unsolicited package of seeds from China in the mail

(source: BBB)

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