Broomfield, Colo. – Nationwide reports of unsolicited seed mailings that began in late July are decreasing, and the incident is largely thought to be a brushing scam, where an online seller—usually overseas—creates false online accounts to boost their rating on an ecommerce site. Before an ecommerce site will consider an order valid, a shipment must be initiated to complete the transaction. Sellers carrying out brushing scams will often ship inexpensive items to complete these transactions.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has received reports of seed packages from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Based on APHIS’ preliminary analysis of the seed samples already collected, the seed packets appear to be a mix of ornamental, fruit and vegetable, herb, and weed species.
APHIS will continue to identify seed species through a process that will span many months and potentially years.
APHIS has created a self-reporting form for anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds and the agency has provided the following instructions for mailing seed packets within Colorado to USDA:
- Save the seeds and the package they came in, including the mailing label.
- Do not open the seed packets.
- Do not plant any of the seed.
- If the packets are already open, place all materials (seeds and packaging) into a sealable bag and seal it.
- Place everything (seeds and any packaging, including the mailing label) in a mailing envelope. Please include your name, address, and phone number so that a Federal agriculture official can contact you for additional information.
- Mail the envelope to:
USDA APHIS PPQ
3950 North Lewiston Street, Suite 104
Aurora, Colorado 80011-1561
If you are unable to mail the package to one of the locations below, please contact your APHIS State plant health director to arrange a no-contact pick up or to determine a convenient drop-off location. The phone number is (303) 371-3355, and the email address is Patrick.W.McPherren@usda.gov.
If you already planted the seeds, please use the self-reporting form to submit an online report and then:
- Remove the seeds or plants and at least 3 inches of the surrounding soil and place inside a plastic bag.
- Squeeze out the air and tightly seal the bag.
- Place the bag inside a second plastic bag, squeeze out the air, and seal it tightly.
- Put the bag in the municipal trash. Do not compost it.
- If you planted the seeds in reusable pots or containers, wash the planting container with soap and water to remove any remaining dirt. It’s important to wash the container over a sink or other container to catch the run-off. Put the run-off down the drain or flush down a toilet.
- Soak clean planting container in a 10 percent bleach and water solution for 30 minutes.
Do not plant seeds from unknown origins, and do not put the seeds in the trash, which could ultimately end up in the landfill and then sprout. For more information visit: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/