Face masks, water guns, UV lights. Why are eastern Idahoans receiving unsolicited items from China in the mail?
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IDAHO FALLS — You’ve heard about mysterious seeds from China showing up unexpectedly in people’s mailboxes, but eastern Idahoans say those aren’t the only unsolicited items landing in people’s mail.
Beverly Ard of Idaho Falls said her 22-year-old son became sick in July and was tested for COVID-19. The test came back negative, but a little over a month later, he received a package from China addressed to him with his phone number on it.
Not remembering if he had ordered something, he opened the package that was labeled “underwear” on the outside. To their surprise, there were two white surgical masks inside a clear plastic bag. Ard said to be safe, they didn’t open up the clear plastic bag the masks were in.
“There’s no stickers or packing slips – nothing. He didn’t order two masks from China,” Ard told EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s suspicious that my son had a COVID test and then these masks show up.”
Christa McGrane of Idaho Falls hasn’t received face masks, but she’s been delivered three packages from China. She received a knock-off version of an American pop-socket that attaches to the back of a phone in May, a kid’s water gun in June and a mini UV nail light in July. She didn’t order any of the items.
All three products were shipped to her work address but had McGrane’s name and phone number on them. It wasn’t until the third item arrived that she made a Facebook post to see if this was happening to other people.
“I had quite a few people tell me that they had strange packages as well,” she said. “For me, I wouldn’t dare open the packages and use them because you don’t know what could be on or in them.”
The Better Business Bureau says this is part of a scam called “brushing” where companies, usually foreign, third-party sellers, are sending the items are using a person’s address found online.
“Their intention is to make it appear as though you wrote a glowing online review of their merchandise, and that you are a verified buyer of that merchandise,” the BBB website explains. “They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products’ ratings, which means more sales for them.”
If you receive a package to your address but not in your name and you don’t recognize it, Idaho Falls Police spokeswoman Jessica Clements said the safest thing to do is call the non-emergency number at (208) 529-1200.
“If they have some reason to believe it’s suspicious, the police department is happy to come out and take a look at the package,” Clements said.
In these situations where the packages have been addressed to specific people and they’ve opened it up only to find items they didn’t order, Clements said it’s best to contact the post office.
The United States Postal Service didn’t tell EastIdahoNews.com what the protocol is in these types of scenarios, except for what to do if seeds are delivered.
In an emailed statement to EastIdahoNews.com, a spokesman said, “The Inspection Service is aware of the mailings and are consulting with our federal, state and local partners. If you receive one of these unsolicited seed mailings, please dispose of the seeds properly in accordance with local authorities.”
For those who receive an unsolicited item(s), the Better Business Bureau says contact Amazon Customer Service if the product appears to come from Amazon, change your account passwords and know that you are allowed to keep the merchandise if you wish.