In late July, the Better Business Bureau serving Connecticut reported that people around the country had received unsolicited seed packets in the mail from China. While the shipping package may have been mislabeled as jewelry or other merchandise, the contents are instead unlabeled seeds.

The seeds were likely a scam known as “brushing,” in which businesses send merchandise to people hoping they will post a fake, positive review on their products.

Connecticut residents who have received the unsolicited seeds are asked to send them, and their packaging, to he USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine office at USDA APHIS PPQ, 97 Barnes Road Unit 200, Wallingford, CT 06492. The seeds can also be dropped off at that address in a box specifically for that purpose.

Instructions for mailing indicate the the unopened seed packet and any packaging, including the mailing label should be placed in a mailing envelope. If the seed packets are open, first place the seeds and their packaging into a zipper bag, seal it, and then place everything into a mailing envelope.

Please include your name, address, and phone number so that a state or federal agriculture official can contact you for additional information, if needed.

If you received other unsolicited items in addition to seeds, please only send the seeds.

If you are unable to ship the seeds or have already planted them, email The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (Kirby.Stafford@ct.gov or Victoria.Smith@ct.gov) or Chuck Baker at Charles.e.baker@usda.gov for instructions and provide the following information: Name, Address, Phone number, e-mail address.

Seeds for planting pose a significant risk for U.S. agriculture and natural resources because they can carry diseases or insects that may harm crops. Imported vegetable or agricultural seed must meet labeling and phytosanitary requirements and be inspected by APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) and customs at the port of entry. Additional information is available aphis.usda.gov.

What is brushing?

Because retailers require reviewers to have actually bought a product, shady businesses have to make it look like fake reviews come from legitimate people. Because big retailers like Amazon verify and track addresses and packages through a third party like USPS, scammers can’t send packages to bogus places.

Instead, scammers go online, find real addresses of real people, and create fake accounts. They then mail these unsuspecting people an actual product — or something completely unrelated to what they’re selling. After the tracking system confirms delivery, the scammers can then leave a “verified” review in your name. In this way, according to BBB, they falsely inflate their sales to look more successful than they are.

Receiving one of these packages could be bad news.

The fact that the items were sent to you as if you purchased them indicates scammers have some of your information, and may have also created an account in your name. Certainly, they have your name and address, and possibly, your phone number and a password, BBB said.