FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) — Reports have been surfacing of mysterious, unsolicited seeds making their way to mailboxes across the country.
It’s apparently happening in South Carolina, too.
“It actually looks more like a cooking spice,” Kristi Falk of Horry County described holding a small zip top bag. “They’re very tiny little seeds maybe for a grain. I just don’t know what they are.”
Falk had ordered seeds for her lawn from Amazon, but they weren’t scheduled to come until August. They later got delayed.
“And I received the package maybe three weeks ago,” Falk recalled. “From China. It was in a little envelope… And it had no packing slip. It had no identification. And all it was were these seeds.”
“I had no clue if maybe Amazon shipped something early. But I looked up the seeds would look like from the plants that I ordered and this wasn’t it.”
Meanwhile a Florence County woman told News13 she got mystery seeds in a small parcel that appeared to come from China. It also said on the outside it contained a ring, but contained the seeds.
Dr. Steve Cole, Director of Regulatory and Public Service Programs at Clemson University PSA said this fits the description of many of the reports he’s seeing.
Clemson University’s Regulatory Services division says it’s gotten over 200 reports of this from South Carolinians. Meanwhile, the SC Department of Agriculture says it’s gotten over 80 reports since Monday.
Dr. Cole said the two agencies are working alongside federal partners in investigating this.
“Our initial thought was… this is definitely a concern for invasive plant species being introduced into the state or a disease issue,” Dr. Cole said.
He continued that the USDA now believes this could be part of a brushing scam.
“Where individuals go online and they essentially steal your identity on Amazon,” he said. “They send you a package of their products and then as a result of you receiving that product they can go back online and pose as you and give themselves favorable reviews to bolster their scores.”
He said that people have received all sorts of different seeds. Recipients are urged to not plant them. He was told by an SCDA official that a couple people had planted them, resulting in tomatoes and melons.
Dr. Cole said this whole issue is still being investigated by many agencies.
If you get seeds in the mail you didn’t order or can’t identify, you shouldn’t open, handle, or plant them. Instead, you should keep the seeds and packaging in a zip top bag, and report it here.
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