EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) – The weird seed phenomenon happening across the country is growing in our region. Local agricultural leaders in several Northern California counties are sounding the alarm about strange seeds being sent to people’s homes.
Gina Bruehl is proud of the plants on her back porch, and as an avid gardener, she knows a thing or two about seeds. But this week, she had seeds sent to her home she said she didn’t order.READ MORE: Suspect Arrested In Fatal Shooting On Tracy Ranch
“They looked like pepper seeds,” Bruehl said.
She’s one of many people in the region who received these mystery seeds in her mailbox.
“There was this package from China,” Bruehl said. “I was like ‘What?’ It was crazy.”
The seeds are of a diverse collection and popped up in counties across the region. The same message from agriculture officials — don’t open or plant them. Call your county Department of Agriculture instead.
“We will come out and take a look and collect it if we suspect it contains seed,” said Chrisandra Flores, the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner.
On a state level, the seeds are being tested to see if they could be harmful to our crops or environment.READ MORE: In Wake Of Sacramento Teen Shootings, Police Gang Units Arrest 4, Seize Guns, Illegal Drugs
“Our number one priority is making sure our ag and food quality stays viable,” Flores said.
But why are people receiving these strange seeds? The USDA is leading the investigation and CBP said it’s likely part of something called a brushing scam.
UC Davis cybersecurity expert Matt Bishop said scammers use a person’s online footprint to create a fake persona and write reviews about the product.
“Sending the product and writing a fake review has happened, but I haven’t seen it on this wide of a scale,” Bishop said.
As for worry about personal identification information being stolen, Bishop said there shouldn’t be anything to worry about — but keep an eye on it just in case.
Bruehl said she hasn’t noticed anything alarming on her accounts and hopes it stays that way.
“I’m a little concerned about that,” Bruehl said. our address – and our personal information.”MORE NEWS: 'The Mighty Ducks' Star Who Was Arrested In Marysville Celebrates 2 Years Sober With Striking Photos
Anyone who receives the seeds is asked to call their county’s agriculture commission, who will likely collect the seeds or direct them to a safe drop-off site.