COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina’s agriculture officials warn residents to be on the lookout for suspicious packages of seeds from China.
On Thursday, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture confirmed that dozens of unsolicited deliveries have been reported across the state. The U.S.Department of Agriculture and top agricultural officials have been raising the alarm that these seeds could be potentially dangerous and should not be planted after the packages began showing up on people’s doorsteps across the nation.
Officials at the South Carolina Department of Agriculture said they’ve been flooded with more than 80 reports over the last week from residents who said they have received a shipment of strange seeds from China, even though they didn’t order them.
Officials added the type of seeds in these packages and any potential dangers are questions that still hang in the air.
“It could be an invasive species. Something that is not native to our environment that could crowd out existing species or harm our insect life here,” Eva Moore, the communications director for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, said.
Moore said most residents said the package comes from the China Post, but the type of seed varies. Moore said until the department has identified the seeds, they should be sealed and stored away.
“Whether you ordered it or not, if you don’t know what it is, don’t plant it,” Moore said.
The USDA released a statement on Tuesday saying they are investigating the seeds to make sure they aren’t dangerous, but there’s no evidence yet that this is more than a brushing scam. In a brushing scam, people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.
“It’s addressed to you, it shows up at your door, and you have no idea where it came from. There’s no address or invoice inside,” Bailey Parker, the communications director for the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs said.
Parker said the number of online scams occurring since the pandemic began is on the rise and brushing scams are among the most common.
Moore said if you have received a suspicious package of seeds that you did not order, keep the package and the seeds in a sealed bag. She added officials are working to organize a collection site for people to drop off the packages.
If you have received a suspicious package of seeds, you can report it to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture or to Clemson University’s Department of Plant Industry. The contact information is 864-646-2140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.