Residents who receive unsolicited seeds in the mail should hang on to the package, but steer clear of opening it or planting the seeds, officials said.
The McHenry County Sheriff's Office has received its first report of a resident receiving an unexpected packet of seeds, the agency posted on its Twitter Thursday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned that the "suspicious" seed packets could be part of a “brushing scam,” in which a seller mails unsolicited items and then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.
"Do not open the package, plant the seeds, or throw them out," the sheriff's office said in the post.
Residents who receive unsolicited seeds should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with their first and last name, phone number and the number and packages received, according to the sheriff's office.
The USDA is in the process of collecting the seeds, which appear to be coming from China, to determine whether they could be harmful to the U.S. agriculture or the environment.
"USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their state plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant director," the USDA wrote in an official statement issued Tuesday. "Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions."