Local News

Mysterious seeds believed to be product of "brushing scam"

Investigators are learning more about why people throughout the US are getting random packages with weird seeds inside.


Megan Abraham, the state's entomologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, told Indiana Outdoors the seeds are being sent in packages from places like China and Uzbekistan as part of some sort of "brushing scam."


"It's a new term for me," Abraham said. "A brushing scam is something that happens when a company will send a client a product and then use that client's physical address to post notes online about how much they enjoyed that product."


How these companies come about acquiring the addresses of people in this particular scam still isn't clear, but investigators are advising you to change your password of online shopping platforms, such as Amazon.


The bigger impact is that some people are planting these mysterious seeds, such as the case of an Arkansas man who was discovered to have planted the seeds in his backyard before the warnings against doing so went out. Conservation officers showed up at his house and pulled up the subsequent plant that grew.


Abraham said there is a health risk in planting the seeds.


"When commodities and raw goods, like seeds, are shipped from one country to the other without proper inspections being done, they have the ability to bring in other pests and pathogens on those seeds," she said. "They could also be invasive if they are planted in the US or in Indiana."


Abraham added that viruses, fungus, and even tiny larva could be inside the seeds, which could be deadly to certain types of plants and wildlife in the state. She also said that this type of thing happens a lot more often than you may think.


Abraham said the USDA sees these types of scams happen every year with several different types of products, but for some reason she said we are seeing a "boom' in the number of people getting unsolicited packages, most commonly containing seeds.


If you end up getting one of these packages, Abraham said you can call the DNR and they will come to collect it from you. From there they will send the seeds to the USDA where they can analyze where they came from and what may be inside them.