KILAUEA — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported several suspicious, unsolicited packages arriving from China being distributed all over the United States.
Because of the number of these suspicious packages, the USDA stated in a recent press release a recommendation that citizens take caution.
A Kaua‘i resident of 35 years, Andrew Haraguchi, received one of these seed packages.
The package was labeled “PULLOVER” outside on the white envelope, with a Chinese inscription on the box.
“I wasn’t nervous when I received the package, but I didn’t want to open it, for sure,” Haraguchi said. “I honestly didn’t want to touch it.”
Haraguchi immediately deposited the package into a garbage bag picked up by county garbage collectors.
“I order a lot on Amazon, and get quite a few deliveries in my P.O. box,” Haraguchi said. “I didn’t open up the package. When I saw it on the news, I saw the packet and I already knew what it was. I just tossed it into the trash.”
The USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their state plant regulatory official or the APHIS (USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) state plant health director.
“The USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seeds that appear to be coming from China,” the release states.
The USDA encourages people who receive such packages to “hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from the state Department of Agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”
Amazon has taken note of the recent scam, and has announced the release of a new fraud-detection program.
This fully-managed service makes it easy to identify potentially-fraudulent online activities, such as online payment fraud and the creation of fake accounts, the release states.
The Amazon fraud detector automatically inspects and enriches data, performs feature engineering, selects algorithms, trains, tunes your model, and hosts it.
The state Department of Agriculture encourages residents to remain vigilant.
“Residents who receive unsolicited seed packets should keep the contents of the package, mailing envelope in its entirety, and any other contents that arrive with the shipment and contact the USDA-APHIS or their nearest HDOA Plant Quarantine office for further instructions,” the DOA stated in a press release.
“Do not open, throw away or plant any of the seeds, to help ensure that new, invasive species are not introduced into the state.”
Currently, the USDA is only citing this as evidence of a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller, who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.
The press release also stated that the USDA is currently collecting the seed packages from recipients and will have the contents tested.
“At this time, federal authorities do not have any evidence of nefarious activity connected to the seed packets, but are testing the contents to determine if they contain anything that could concern U.S. agriculture or the environment,” the release states.
Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.