First Seeds, Now Mystery Face Masks Arriving From China to U.S. Mailboxes

Face masks have been added to the list of unwanted mystery packages being mailed to U.S. residents from China, leaving residents perplexed as to what's going on.

"I looked at the label and it had Shanghai, China from a certain district," said Tampa Bay, Florida, resident Shan Sharp to News Channel 8, when she received a package from abroad recently. "All of this information, including my cell phone number, (was) on there."

After opening the envelope, Sharp discovered two packets of face masks with no delivery note.

"I was afraid to even open it after I saw it. I didn't want to keep it in my house," said Sharp, who threw it in the garbage shortly afterwards.

The package comes just a couple of weeks after other U.S. residents have received unwanted packages from China.

Georgia resident Kelley Litty also received masks from China that she didn't order: "It says China on the label for masks. One thousand percent sure I did not order any mask. It's a complete surprise. And it doesn't make sense," she said to WSB-TV.

Meanwhile, residents from Florida and Utah have reported receiving envelopes of seeds. Utah resident Lori Culley thought it must be a case of mistaken address, but when she posted about her delivery on social media, "at least 40" local residents claim to have received similar packages.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has previously warned consumers about "brushing," a scam relating to customer reviews, in which companies post low-cost, lightweight items to random addresses, so they can write fake reviews to boost their online business.

"Often, the items received are lightweight and inexpensive to ship, such as ping pong balls, or more recently, face masks or seeds from China," said a BBB statement.

Chinese imported face masks
A cardboard box filled with packaged blue surgical masks. U.S. residents are receiving unwanted face masks in the post. Smith Collection/Getty Images

"The companies, usually foreign, third-party sellers that are sending the items are simply using your address that they discovered 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. They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products' ratings, which means more sales for them. The payoff is highly profitable from their perspective."

BBB representative Jane Rupp offered some practical advice for those who receive unwanted packages. "The first thing to do is Google your address and see what's out there," she said to FOX 13. "Numerous things will come up when you Google your address. It's kind of scary sometimes."

Another thing you can do if a strange package turns up at your door is to
notify the retailer. Brushing and fake reviews are against many online retailer policies. If the product is 'sold' via Amazon, for example, contact Amazon Customer Service so they can investigate.

The BBB also stated that it's wise to change your account passwords if you receive a strange package, in case your information has been hacked.

The good news is, you are entitled to keep the items sent to you if you wish. The Federal Trade Commission maintains that this is your legal right.