Business

Why mysterious seed packages showing up in Canadian mailboxes could be a 'brushing' scam

Packages of mysterious seeds that have been making unsolicited appearances in mailboxes across North America are drawing attention to an online review scam that has recently appeared in Canada.

U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests deliveries might be a scheme to create fake positive reviews online

Java D’Ignazio of Mississauga, Ont., received a small bag of tiny seeds in the mail. She says the fact she doesn't know what they are or where they came from makes her uneasy. (Angelina King/CBC)

Packages of mysterious seeds that have been making unsolicited appearances in mailboxes across North America are drawing attention to an online review scam that has recently appeared in Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency warned gardeners last week not to plant any seeds they received in the mail without ordering, warning that they could be from invasive species or even carry pests.

While Canadian authorities have not provided an update, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has suggested the seeds may be part of a "brushing" scam, where sellers send unsolicited items to random people and then post fake positive reviews online.

Jessie St-Cyr, a spokesperson with the Better Business Bureau, said this type of scam has recently begun popping up in Canada.

She said sellers send light or inexpensive items to people so they appear to be verified customers when reviews are posted online in their names.

While customers usually aren't charged for the items, she said recipients should change their passwords for online retail sites and verify bank statements to ensure fraudsters aren't accessing sensitive information, such as credit card numbers.

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