The "Seed Scam" - What is the end goal?

Apparently people in Tennessee and North Texas are receiving unordered packages from China with seeds in them. The FDA is warning people not to plant them. (Why someone would open anything they didn’t order is a totally different conundrum.) They are saying this is some sort of scam, but I am failing to see how.

I’m reminded of the Underpant Gnomes.

  1. Send out seeds
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

Can anyone enlighten me on how this scam is supposed to work?

Stolen name and address
Create Amazon account.
The seeds will show as a legitimate shipment(for a different product).
Reviews for different product left by seller under the false account.

Are you aware of the damage that non-native invasive plants can wreak?



My initial thought about this when I heard the reports is this was not so much a scam ($) as an attempt to damage American agriculture. 1) send invasive seeds to US. 2) dumb Americans plant them to see what grows. 3) plants eventually escape captivity and cause problems for American farmers, making Chinese goods more in demand.

OK, I guess this could be a $cam.

See this thread. The seeds being seeds is irrelevant–all they care about is having something light and cheap to ship. (Other stuff is being shipped, but there is no department of hairclips and plastic schoolbuses to put out warnings about those.)

That’s probably because hairclips and plastic schoolbuses aren’t living organisms that once planted or carelessly discarded might spread on their own.

I don’t think the seeds have been identified yet. I got an email from NYState Ag and Markets today asking people who get these things to send the seeds to them so they can analyze samples (people in other states should contact their own state’s equivalent, NYSA&M only wants the ones mailed to NY; I’ll send along the NY mailing address to anyone in NY who needs it, PM me.) They think it’s just a brushing scam, but they’re not taking chances.

I doubt the seeds are specifically intended to do damage; but even presuming that they aren’t, I also doubt that any scammer is taking the trouble to make sure the seed is of noninvasive species in the areas it’s mailed to and also that it’s not carrying any diseases that might spread in those areas. Quite a lot of people aren’t even aware of the issue.

There are lots of different types of seeds being shipped. See my links in the other thread.

Oh, but what a world that would be. Would they be in the same department, like the ATF, or would they be separate?

Ah - so it’s sort of like spearphishing. You get this packet of seeds, the invoice says 18k Gold ring or something like that. You say to yourself, “Self, this ain’t no gold ring, but I bet if I call this number on the invoice, I might score a free gold ring out of it.”

Maybe it’s because my first job was in a mail room, but I’m still stuck on why someone would open an unexpected package from an unknown sender in the first place.

I would likely not know if a particular package was unexpected. Which part of which of the orders one of the people in this house made this week is this? Won’t know until I open it. Huh, who ordered seeds?

My family sometimes mails me things, and the return address on the package is often not theirs, but whatever company they bought the thing from.

Also, if the return address is Amazon or another well-known company, people may have ordered something themselves from there, and think that the package is their order.

And for a third, sometimes I order an item from Company A, and Company A has it shipped directly from the manufacturer, whose address might not be offhand familiar to me.

And for a fourth possibility, in some households family dynamics may be such that one person may open packages ordered by somebody else, and may not always know what they ordered or from whom.

I suppose five is just plain curiosity. Most people aren’t expecting anything actively harmful to show up in their mail, after all.

One package looked like lemon or another citrus seed. I did not recognize another. Have you a link to the other thread?

Other thread linked in my first post. The first news story I linked there showed the citrus seeds. The second one shows three additional types.

Yep - I got a pair of sunglasses that randomly turned up one time which I assume was a case of Brushing. Basically, if you have bought anything anywhere, anytime, there is a possibility that someone retained your name and address details for use in this technique.

The chances of actually tracing where they used the fake buyer account with your name on it is next to zero.

Yet the lime seeds I ordered from China have never arrived.

You don’t even have to have bought something online. Go on google maps, drop yourself in to some random spot in the US and note the address. Use whitepages . com reverse address search to get the name.
Granted, that’s a slow way and I’m sure there’s faster ways to do it (both legit and otherwise), but my point being buying something online isn’t required for your name and address to be found.

Hell, in Wisconsin you can go to our court access system, type in a generic last name and get everyone that’s ever interacted with the courts, along with their address in big list that you can easily drop into excel. (And, by ‘interact with the courts’ that goes beyond getting sued or divorced or other ‘legal’ things. Even getting a speeding ticket will put you on that website.

I think I got those

Was there a coconut in the same package? They might have been inside.

I put mine in water. Turns out they are the Seed Monkeys I ordered from the back page of a comic book in 1974. Allowing 8 to 10 weeks for delivery was incredibly optimistic.

Still waiting on the x-ray specs.

The ones the Ohio Department of Agriculture are using for their example look like sunflower seeds.

Commenters on the Department’s FB page seem to think the labels look like they’re from the website (What the heck is