Iowa, Nebraska officials warn of seeds from China in mail

DES MOINES, Iowa- If you get a package of seeds in the mail, that you did not order, don't open it. State agriculture officials say they're getting reports from people in Iowa and other states about getting unsolicited seed, from China and other countries.

The state's waiting on more guidance from the U-S-D-A, but for now, it's best not to open the package don't plant it, and do not try to destroy it. Those who receive such a package are asked to contact the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

Iowa State Entomologist Robin Pruisner is also the state's seed control official and says it's part of a widespread consumer scam. She says she's heard reports of a variety of seed types in the packages, from sweet potatoes, to roses. She says the concern is the packages may contain seed from invasive plants or foreign diseases, or that there are unknown chemical treatments on the seed, that could be harmful for those handling the seed.

In Iowa, those who receive the seed are asked to reported it by calling 515-281-5321 or the local USDA plant protection office at 515-251-4083.

In Nebraska, contact the USDA APHIS office at 402-434-2346.

Pruisner says the effort is widely believed to be a consumer scam called "brushing," where a scammer has set up a fake profile in someone's name, a shipment is sent, and scammers create a positive review as if it's coming from the seed recipient, as a "verified" buyer.

In addition to seed packages, sometimes people might receive small items, tools, or the package may be empty.

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