USDA identifies some of the mysterious, unsolicited seeds after all 50 states issue warnings

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N’dea Yancey-Bragg | USA TODAY | 19 hours ago 4-6 minutes

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified 14 different kinds of seeds in the mysterious packages that appear to have been sent unsolicited from China to people around the country.

All 50 states have issued warnings about the packages some of which contain flowering plants like morning glory, hibiscus and roses, according to Osama El-Lissy, with the Plant Protection program of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. El-Lissy said other packages contain vegetables like cabbage and herbs including mint, sage, rosemary, and lavender. 

“This is a just a subset of the samples we’ve collected so far,” he said Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the USDA said the department is urging anyone who receives the packages not to plant them and to contact their state plant regulatory official and keep the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until they receive further instruction.

“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales,” the statement said. “USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.”

Robin Pruisner, state seed control official at the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in Iowa, told Reuters she’s concerned the seeds may have been coated with something, possibly insecticide or fungicide, that could damage crops.

“I’ve had people describe to me that the seeds are coated with something purple. I haven’t had it in my hands yet, but it sounds an awful lot like a seed treatment,” she told the outlet.

Sid Miller, Texas agriculture commissioner warned the packages could contain harmful invasive species or be otherwise unsafe, according to a release. Invasive species are organisms not native to a certain region. The introduction of invasive species could cause the destruction of native crops, introduce diseases to native plants and could be dangerous to livestock.

“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture,” Miller said in the release. The Texas Department of Agriculture “has been working closely with USDA to analyze these unknown seeds so we can protect Texas residents.”

Some of the packages were labeled as jewelry and may have Chinese writing on them, according to agriculture officials.

Lori Culley, who lives in Tooele, Utah, told Fox 13 she was excited to find two small packages in her mailbox that appeared to contain earrings.

“I opened them up and they were seeds,” Culley said. “Obviously they’re not jewelry.”

Culley told the outlet she posted about the strange incident on Facebook, and “at least 40 people” reached out to her saying something similar happened to them.

Contributing: Alana Edgin, San Angelo Standard-Times

Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg View | 9 Photos

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28 states issue warnings about mysterious seed packets from China

nbcnews.com

Janelle GriffithJanelle Griffith is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

Officials in at least 28 states are urging residents to report any unsolicited packages of seeds that appear to have been sent from China because they could be harmful.

The agricultural departments in those states released statements in recent days saying residents had reported receiving packages of seeds in the mail that they had not ordered.

“Based on information provided by constituents, the packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them,” the Delaware Department of Agriculture said in a statement Monday. “All contained some sort of seed packet either alone, with jewelry, or another inexpensive item.”The Delaware Department of Agriculture is advising residents not to plant unsolicited seeds purportedly sent from China.Delaware Dept. of Agriculture

Public notices about unsolicited shipments of seeds from China were also issued by agriculture officials in Alabama, Colorado,Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington state, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Some of the seeds have been mailed in white packages displaying Chinese lettering and the words “China Post.” Others, such as those mailed to people in Ohio, have been sent in yellow envelopes.

The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and state departments of agriculture to investigate.

The USDA said in a statement it did not have any evidence that this was something other than a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

“USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment,” the statement said.

The USDA urged anyone who received the seeds in the mail to contact state plant regulatory officials or Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials in their state.

Officials warned people not to plant the seeds.

“If you receive seeds from China, DO NOT PLANT THEM. And don’t throw them in the trash,” Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson said in a statement on his Facebook page.

The Montana Department of Agriculture said in a statement Monday that the seeds have not yet been identified.

“They could be invasive, meaning they may have the potential to introduce diseases to local plants, or could be harmful to livestock,” the statement said.

Steve Cole, director of Clemson University’s Regulatory Services unit in South Carolina, said: “If these seeds should bear invasive species, they may be a threat to our environment and agriculture. We don’t want unknown species planted or thrown out where they may wind up sprouting in a landfill.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna1235094?cid=sm_npd_nn_fb_ma&__twitter_impression=true&s=09

DEA warns of scammers impersonating DEA employees

dea.gov

DEA Logo

Drug Enforcement Administration

WASHINGTON – The Drug Enforcement Administration urges its DEA-registered practitioners and members of the public to be cautious of telephone calls by scammers posing as DEA employees attempting to defraud and extort victims. The schemers call the victims, spoofing DEA phone numbers in order to appear legitimate, and threaten arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment for supposed violations of federal drug laws or involvement in drug-trafficking activities unless victims pay a “fine” over the phone, via wire transfer, or through a gift card.

The reported scam tactics continually change but often share many of the same characteristics. Callers use fake names and badge numbers or names of well-known DEA officials and may:

  • use an urgent and aggressive tone, refusing to speak to or leave a message with anyone other than their targeted victim;
  • threaten arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, and, in the case of medical practitioners, revocation of their DEA numbers;
  • demand thousands of dollars via wire transfer or, in some instances, in the form of untraceable gift cards taken over the phone;
  • falsify the number on caller ID to appear as a legitimate DEA phone number;
  • will often ask for personal information, such as social security number or date of birth;
  • reference National Provider Identifier numbers and/or state license numbers when calling a medical practitioner. They also might claim that patients are making accusations against that practitioner.

It is critical to note that DEA personnel do not contact practitioners or members of the public by telephone to demand money or any other form of payment; will not request any personal or sensitive information over the phone; and will only notify people of a legitimate investigation or legal action via official letter or in-person.

Impersonating a federal agent is a violation of federal law.  

The best deterrence against these bad actors is awareness and caution. Anyone receiving this type of call from a person purporting to be with DEA should report that contact using our online form or by calling 877-792-2873. DEA registrants can submit the information through “Extortion Scam Online Reporting” posted on the DEA Diversion Control Division’s website, www.DEADiversion.usdoj.gov.

Reporting these scam calls will help DEA stop, find, and arrest the criminals engaged in this fraud. Anyone with urgent concerns can call their local DEA field division. For contact information for DEA field divisions, visit https://www.dea.gov/domestic-divisions

https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2020/07/29/dea-warns-scammers-impersonating-dea-employees

Voter fraud? Nah can’t be…the Democrats said so!

Scam Alert ⚠️

If you get this text message related to COVID-19, delete it ASAP | fox43.com

The Federal Trade Commission says there have been more than 48,000 reports of COVID-19 related fraud this year, resulting in Americans losing millions of dollars.

Author: Jackie De Tore (FOX43) Published: 2:47 PM EDT May 19, 2020 Updated: 4:59 PM EDT May 19, 2020

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Americans have lost millions of dollars while falling for COVID-19 related schemes. 

In about a month, the number of fraud reports related to COVID-19 has almost tripled.

Here’s a look at just one of the most recent scams.

The Federal Trade Commission reports people are getting a text message that claims you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Then when people click the link to learn more, you’ll end up downloading malware onto your device. 

By the way, Pennsylvania isn’t even doing widespread contact tracing yet, so you’re not getting a text like this right now from anyone legitimate. https://www.facebook.com/v7.0/plugins/video.php?app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter.php%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df1acd9c1efea654%26domain%3Dwww.fox43.com%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.fox43.com%252Ff32a6cca6d57dee%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=720&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FJackieDeTore%2Fvideos%2F538840290130120%2F&locale=en_US&sdk=joey

It’s just one of the thousands of COVID-19 scams out there

We showed you these statistics from the Federal Trade Commission back on April 17th.

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Credit: FTC FTC COVID-19 fraud Complaints from 4/17

At that time, more than 18,000 people said they were victims of COVID-19 fraud across the country.

As of May 17th, there are more than 49,000 reports, and almost half of the people who reported scams also lost money.

The average loss is around $475.

RELATED: Spot the stimulus scams before crooks take your money

RELATED: Scammers are using new tactics during COVID-19

Pennsylvania falls in the top 10 across the country when it comes to COVID-19 related scams with more than 1,400 reports so far.

According to the FTC, people are seeing a lot of fraud when it comes to travel or vacations and online shopping.

https://www.fox43.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/ftv-warns-of-covid19-contact-tracing-text-message-scam/521-0d5fab35-af31-4362-b55b-bab12f0bac96

SCAM ALERT ⚠️

Important information from the IRS

VERIFY: Facebook ad referenced unfinished research for phony mask product | fox43.com

verify

At least one doctor quoted in a Facebook ad about ‘salt-coated masks’ says he was surprised to see his name associated with a product he had nothing to do with. Author: VERIFY, Linda S. Johnson, Terry Spry Jr. Published: 3:33 PM EDT April 8, 2020

VERIFY
VERIFY
VERIFY

With the coronavirus pandemic leading to a surge in interest in face masks, there are some who are trying to cash in at the expense of consumers. 

A Facebook ad recently touted a new product with some bold claims: a salt-spray for face masks that supposedly will kill viruses. 

The ad even claimed it was designed by a NASA engineer and goes so far as to offer testimonials by multiple doctors. But there’s a key problem, at least one of the doctors quoted in the ad was surprised to see his name associated with this product. VERIFY

The ad appears to have been removed from Facebook. That’s unsurprising. There is no evidence this product is anything more than a scam. VERIFY

THE QUESTION

Does a salt-solution spray for face masks that is advertised as killing COVID-19 really work?

THE ANSWER

According to one of the doctors quoted in the ad, no. 

While Dr. Hyo-Jick Choi researched and produced a working virus-deactivating salt-coated filter in 2017, it has not yet received further research to make it commercially available.

Dr. Choi stressed when contacted by VERIFY that he was surprised to see his name associated with an ad for this product. 

The product in the ad has not been evaluated by the federal government, and the ad itself discloses that “the FDA has not evaluated any of these claims.” 

WHAT WE FOUND

Dr. Choi’s research entered the spotlight early in the COVID-19 outbreak as news articles reported on his findings as a possible way to fight its spread. Business Insider reported he had a patent on the technology.

RELATED: How US guidance on wearing masks during coronavirus outbreak has evolved

He told VERIFY that he had heard about mask sellers who had been selling salt-coated masks falsely labelled as virus-killing, but was surprised to find his image, name and quote used in online and social media ads for such a product.

“It looks like they are trying to make profits by sacrificing the safety of the public,” said Choi. Currently there is no such mask commercially available, he said.

His group at the University of Alberta is working on a prototype of a legitimate mask.

“Although we succeeded in making virus-deactivating, salt-coated filters, we need to complete scale-up research to make the final face mask product,” Choi said of his own research..

A mask using salt “cannot be made by simply soaking [a] conventional mask into saline solution. It cannot be made by a D-I-Y process,” he said.

In fact, modifying masks or respirators can damage the fiber in the filters, which will increase bio-contamination, he said. And developing a multiple-layer mask like his requires fine-tuning the correct filtration efficiency, breathability and virus inactivation.

If his own warnings aren’t enough to convince you the product may not be what it’s advertised as, the ad’s own words at the bottoms serve as a decent enough warning. VERIFY

Beneath logos of official government agencies, the small text reads, “Note: the FDA has not evaluated any of these claims. Not accepted medical evidence. Claims based on published research available online.”

So the ad’s claim that it’s virus-killing hasn’t been evaluated and it’s not accepted medical evidence.

The Better Business Bureau, which is not affiliated with the government, has warned about mask scams since early February. They recommend buying from reputable stores or websites.

RELATED: VERIFY: Watch out for coronavirus scams

Choi’s recommendation is to stick to government-certified masks which have passed the required testing.

Something you’d like VERIFIED? Click here to submit your story.

FBI Warns of Money Mule Schemes Exploiting the COVID-19 Pandemic | Federal Bureau of Investigation

 

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https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-warns-of-money-mule-schemes-exploiting-the-covid-19-pandemic

fbi.gov

4 minutes


Fraudsters are taking advantage of the uncertainty and fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, access your personal and financial information, and use you as a money mule.

When criminals obtain money illegally, they have to find a way to move and hide the illicit funds. They scam other people, known as money mules, into moving this illicit money for them either through funds transfers, physical movement of cash, or through various other methods. Money mules are often targeted through online job schemes or dating websites and apps.

Acting as a money mule—allowing others to use your bank account, or conducting financial transactions on behalf of others—not only jeopardizes your financial security and compromises your personally identifiable information, but is also a crime. Protect yourself by refusing to send or receive money on behalf of individuals and businesses for which you are not personally and professionally responsible. The FBI advises you to be on the lookout for the following:

Work-from-home schemes

Watch out for online job postings and emails from individuals promising you easy money for little to no effort. Common red flags that you may be acting as a money mule include:

  • The “employer” you communicate with uses web-based services such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook, etc.
  • You are asked to receive funds in your personal bank account and then “process” or “transfer” funds via wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service businesses, such as Western Union or MoneyGram
  • You are asked to open bank accounts in your name for a business
  • You are told to keep a portion of the money you transfer

Individuals claiming to be located overseas asking you to send or receive money on their behalf

Watch out for emails, private messages, and phone calls from individuals you do not know who claim to be located abroad and in need of your financial support. Criminals are trying to gain access to U.S. bank accounts in order to move fraud proceeds from you and other victims to their bank accounts. Common fictitious scenarios include:

  • Individuals claiming to be U.S. service members stationed overseas asking you to send or receive money on behalf of themselves or a loved one battling COVID-19
  • Individuals claiming to be U.S. citizens working abroad asking you to send or receive money on behalf of themselves or a loved one battling COVID-19
  • Individuals claiming to be U.S. citizens quarantined abroad asking you to send or receive money on behalf of themselves or a loved one battling COVID-19
  • Individuals claiming to be in the medical equipment business asking you to send or receive money on their behalf
  • Individuals affiliated with a charitable organization asking you to send or receive money on their behalf

If you are looking for accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, the CDC has posted extensive guidance and information that is updated frequently. The best sources for authoritative information on COVID-19 are http://www.cdc.gov and http://www.coronavirus.gov. You may also consult your primary care physician for guidance.

If you believe you, or someone you know, has been solicited to be a money mule, please contact your local FBI field office. To report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.

For accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19, visit:

🚨 SCAM ALERT 🚨

be careful of Internet scams ⚠️

Coronavirus phishing: CDC and WHO emails may be scam | fox43.com

Online scammers across the globe are leveraging the coronavirus outbreak and spoofing real health organizations to steal personal information.

For more information continue living here.

https://www.fox43.com/amp/article/news/verify/verify-coronavirus-phising-attempts-cdc-who-emails-may-be-scams/65-33a4995a-6772-4f33-9eb1-721183b859a4?__twitter_impression=true

VERIFY: Watch out for coronavirus scams

fox43.com

The World Health Organization and the Better Business Bureau have both warned against scammers taking advantage of coronavirus panic.

Wherever there is fear, there are also scams. The new coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, is no different.

The World Health Organization has warned that scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to send phishing links and trick people in other related ways.

In their warning, they say that scammers are pretending to be WHO officials in email, websites, phone calls, text messages and even fax messages. If the scammers send an email, they try to phish victims by tricking them into sending information like usernames or passwords, clicking malicious links or opening malicious attachments.

One way people can verify whether they are receiving real emails from WHO is if the email ends with “who.int”. WHO noted they do not send emails from addresses ending in “@who.com”, “@who.org” or “@who-safety.org”.

WHO also stressed that there is no need someone would need your personal information such as username and password to access public information.

You can verify if communication is legitimately from WHO by contacting them directly. Additionally, if you’ve been targeted by a scam in which someone impersonates WHO you can report it to them.

Digital scams aren’t all there is to worry about though. The Better Business Bureau, which is not affiliated with the government, warned of scams selling physical products. Specifically, they warned about face masks.

The BBB warns of phony online stores taking your money and sending poor quality or counterfeit masks. Their advice to avoid getting scammed is to only buy from sellers you know and trust.

They also warn of products that claim to sell some kind of “miracle cure” for the new virus. Currently, the Center for Disease Control says the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the disease in the first place. They do not recommend any cures.

In fact, the CDC says on their FAQ page that they do not recommend people who are well wear respiratory masks to prevent themselves from respiratory illness. They say you should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends you do so. The CDC does say people who have become sick with COVID-19 should wear a mask, as should health workers and other people taking care of patients with COVID-19.

In general, be wary of scams taking advantage of your worries regarding the latest coronavirus outbreak. Don’t click links or attachments in emails from people you don’t recognize and trust. Don’t give away your personal information. Don’t fall for products said to provide some kind of miracle cure. Steer away from buying masks or other items from shady shops.

https://www.fox43.com/amp/article/news/verify/verify-watch-out-for-coronavirus-scams/507-a80c93a5-bee4-48a7-a14f-a089bd53555d?__twitter_impression=true

Scam alert ⚠️