Americans can now add unsolicited face masks to the list of deliveries from China that have been arriving in mailboxes and on doorsteps across the US over the last several weeks.
Recent news reports have indicated that in addition to the mysterious, unsolicited seed packages that have turned up across the US, local residents in Florida and in Georgia have been sent deliveries containing surgical masks.
Shan Sharp, a resident of Clearwater, Florida, told local news station WFLA that she was utterly confused when she discovered a package in her mailbox from Shanghai, China, since she hadn’t placed any orders with China as the place of origin.
“I looked at the label and it had Shanghai, China, from a certain district,” Sharp recalled. “All of this information, including my cellphone number, [was] on there.”
Upon opening the shipment, the Florida resident discovered that the delivery contained two packages of face masks, without a single note inside from the sender. Too afraid to further probe the shipment’s contents, Sharp eventually tossed the items in the trash.
“I was afraid to even open it after I saw it. I didn’t want to keep it in my house,” she added.
Elsewhere, in the nearby state of Georgia, similar packages were being discovered by stunned residents.
Georgian Kelley Litty informed news station WSB-TV that she received a package in July from China that was labeled “masks.” It’s unclear if Litty opened the shipment’s packaging.
“One thousand percent sure I did not order any mask,” she told the station. “It’s a complete surprise. And it doesn’t make sense.”
“You just never know. These days you just never know,” Litty added, noting that the thought of actually using one of the masks hasn’t even crossed her mind.
Aside from the seeds and face masks, other unsolicited shipments that Americans have received from China include fake Ray-Ban sunglasses and even a whistle, according to WSB-TV.
Having been investigating the shipments for several weeks now, both the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) have stated that the unwanted packages are more than likely part of a so-called online “brushing” scheme to create false reviews for a product.
“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,” reads a notice on the BBB’s website.
“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.”
Jennifer Leach, an associate director of the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education, warned in an August 7 release that the unsolicited deliveries could suggest that “scammers have created an account in your name, or taken over your account, on online retail sites.” As such, Leach underscores that targeted individuals should report suspicious account activity to sites of which they are members.