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USDA identifies some unsolicited seeds, advises recipients to change Amazon passwords

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Amazon customers who receive unsolicited seed packets “may want to consider” changing their passwords on the vendor’s website, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials advised.

“Consumers may also want to contact [Amazon] if they are concerned that their account was compromised in any way, or to complain about the fraudulent use of their personal information,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said Friday in a press release.

The recipients “seem to be people who recently purchased something online,” according to USDA officials.

Amazon officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from News 8.

A company spokesperson had previously stated the seeds “appear to be delayed packages due to COVID-19.”

Federal authorities launched an investigation after unsolicited seed packets with Chinese shipping labels appeared in mailboxes across the country, sparking invasive species concerns and bioterrorism fears.

USDA botanists identified at least 14 species of seeds, including mustard, cabbage, morning glory, mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, hibiscus and roses, according to Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator of the agency’s plant protection service.

“We don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ [aimed at fraudulently boosting e-commerce ratings],” an agency spokesperson said Friday.

All 50 states issued warnings about the seeds; however, USDA officials said the agency only received related reports from 22 states.

More than 300 Indiana residents reported receiving unsolicited seed packets from China in the mail, the state’s seed administrator said.

At least two Hoosiers reported receiving unsolicited face masks from China in the mail.


“The seeds we have identified are not uniform or of any
particular type. They include a mixture of ornamental, fruit and vegetable, herb and weed seeds,” USDA officials said. (Photo: USDA APHIS)

USDA GUIDANCE FOR SEED RECIPIENTS IN INDIANA

  • 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 seeds.
  • If the packets are already open, place all materials (seeds and packaging) into a zip lock bag and seal it. 
  • Place everything (seeds and any packaging, including the mailing label) in a mailing envelope. Include your name, address and phone number so state or federal agriculture officials can contact you for additional information. 
  • Mail to:
    USDA APHIS PPQ
    Nick Johnson
    3059 N Morton St
    Franklin, IN 46131

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