International Asia US homes receive mystery seed packages as part of "brushing" scam

US homes receive mystery seed packages as part of “brushing” scam

Their buyer information may have been obtained illegally to post glowing reviews of products to boost sales

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There has been an increase in the number of unsolicited, mystery packages containing seeds received in the United States from China, Kyrgyzstan and, in one case, allegedly from Singapore.

According to a twincities.com report, people in a dozen US states had received the packages. In Minnesota alone, more than 150 people had received them as of July 28. Similar cases were reported in Japan on Tuesday (Aug  4), while the same has been going on in the UK with the increase in online shopping.

How does it work?

A “brushing” scam is when a seller poses as a customer as a way to boost its product rating on e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba or Amazon. It acquires the seller’s information, usually illegally, makes a purchase, then uses that account to write a glowing review online of whatever product it needs to boost online.

As there is now a verification process before they are able to submit legitimate reviews in Amazon, these scam companies send lightweight and inexpensive items to the registered address to pass as a verified purchase.

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The latest items being shipped are seeds from China, Kyrgyzstan and, in at least one incident, from Singapore.

The labels of the packages indicate merchandise such as jewellery or small appliances. However, the actual contents are all kinds of seeds. There is often no return address indicated, or the package only stated that it came from Amazon or another retailer.

The US authorities have warned the public not to plant the seeds as they may be an invasive variety or be infected with bacteria, pests or a virus.

Furthermore, it is advised for those who receive such unsolicited packages to change their account password and cancel the payment methods such as credit or debit cards linked to that account.

Those who receive these mysterious deliveries are urged to contact Amazon Customer Service as “brushing” scams and fake reviews are against company policy. It will investigate the incident and take action accordingly. /TISG

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