Officials are warning that unsolicited packages of seeds are being sent from China to homes in Lake and McHenry counties and across the United States.
The Antioch Police Department and Gurnee Police Department said they both have received reports from residents receiving these packages in the mail.
The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office said they received a report from a Harvard resident.
Most of the packages indicate they were shipped from China. The outside of the package usually indicates a different item is in the package, such as jewelry or toys.
Those who receive a package of unsolicited seeds should keep it with their original packaging and mailing labels. Do not open the package, plant the seeds, or throw them out.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture issued a statement on Tuesday saying that anyone who receives unordered seeds should email their office at firstname.lastname@example.org with their first and last name, phone number, number of packages received, and a photo of the package(s).
The Illinois Department of Agriculture said they are working with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
The United States Department of Agriculture said they are aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seeds that appear to be coming from China.
The USDA is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and state departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.
USDA officials said they believe this is a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.
The USDA is collecting seed packages from recipients and testing their contents to determine if they contain anything that could be harmful.