Over the past few months, hundreds of people in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and the UK have received strange parcels from China in the mail. In most cases, people found black or white seeds of unknown plants in small transparent bags. At the same time, the packaging of the parcels indicated that there were toys or jewelry inside. "Lenta.ru" studied similar stories and tried to figure out who and why sends people unsolicited packages.
The Letter of Death
American authorities sounded the alarm over the unknown seeds, recalling the 2001 mail attack. A week after the September 11 terrorist attack in the United States, suspicious letters were delivered to several media offices and two senators. They contained anthrax spores. As a result, five people died and another 17 people became infected.
Microbiologist Bruce Ivins was suspected of sending dispute letters. He worked at the Army Institute for Infectious Disease Medical Research in Maryland, where it turned out to be where the anthrax spores were taken. Ivins committed suicide in 2008, and the case was dropped in February 2010.
Based on past experience, the USDA urged not to touch the resulting seeds, keep them away from children and pets, and never plant them. The version was considered that in this way the Chinese senders wanted to avoid problems with customs. The parcels bore the exact address and name of the recipient, and stickers from China Post.
In Florida alone, strange parcels have been sent to more than 600 people, with one American receiving three mysterious messages at once in a week. In total, such cases have occurred in 12 US states. In the UK, more than a hundred shipments were counted. Also known about the delivery of seeds to New Zealand and Portugal.
A Texas resident admitted that she received the seeds in April and immediately planted them, taking them for a gift. None of the seeds ever germinated. Doyle Crenshaun of Booneville, Arkansas, USA, also disobeyed the government's ban and tried to germinate seeds of unknown plants.
“Every two weeks, I went up to them and poured fertilizer, and they started to grow damn fast,” he said. As a result, the plant bloomed with orange flowers and produced large white fruits, similar to zucchini.
Who is behind this?
The United States and the United Kingdom have launched a joint investigation into the unsolicited package. They had a version that the seeds were sent to random addresses by scammers - the owners of Chinese online stores who want to increase their rating.
The Chinese authorities said the postal stickers were fake and asked the US Postal Service to hand over the packages for their own investigation.
Soon, the US Department of Agriculture revealed the secret of the Chinese shipments. Experts analyzed the contents of the parcels and found out that seeds of non-life-threatening plants are sent in packages. In particular, they were talking about cabbage, mustard, bindweed, roses, mint, rosemary and lavender.
According to a spokesman for the department, Osama el-Lissi, the purpose of sending such parcels is not a malicious attack, but a fraud on the part of unscrupulous sellers from Chinese online stores.
According to the scheme, a fake buyer orders an item with a fake address outside of China and receives a tracking code. When the product reaches the addressee, the fraudster writes a positive review about the product and thereby increases the rating of the store. Most often, online store owners send something unnecessary and inexpensive instead of a real product. For example, plant seeds.
The PRC Postal Service is ready to cooperate with the US authorities on this issue. Service representatives asked to send them suspicious parcels in order to find the senders.
From dirty socks to medical masks
The scammers sent out not only packages of seeds, but also other unnecessary things. For example, residents of several American states received, among other things, fake Rayban sunglasses and whistles.
“I don’t think people are sending this out of good faith,” says Faith Tankersley, who received the points. "I'm afraid there might be something harmful in it."
US resident Kelly Litty received a package of medical masks from China last month.
“The country of manufacture is indicated on the masks - China. I'm a thousand percent sure I didn't order any masks, she says. "I can't find an explanation for this."
New Yorkers complained to a local radio station about the mask packs delivered to them from China, even though none of them ordered anything. Dawn Proctor of Endicott Village said there were dirty socks in his package.
“No check, no note. The socks looked like they were already worn by someone. We laughed and threw them in the bin. This is all very strange, ”said Proctor.
Unsolicited parcels from Amazon
Several years ago, a similar story took place in the American city of Acton, Massachusetts. Amazon's online store has begun to regularly fill up the family with retirement mail.
Mike and Kelly Gallivan received their first unsolicited package in October 2017. Since then, they have been brought in one or two boxes of Amazon products every week. Most often, they were sent inexpensive little things, such as plastic fans or phone chargers.
Gallivan did not order or pay for the packages, but they continued to arrive. The retirees tried unsuccessfully to find the sender and even turned to Amazon for help. The company representatives could not establish the name of the client: since he pays with gift certificates, his identity could not be determined from the payment history.
“We are ordinary, unremarkable people, and we do not want to have anything to do with this. But parcels keep coming, ”complained Kelly Gallivan. Experts suspect that the family has become an unwitting accomplice to scammers who cheat on the ratings of their products in the online store.
American Terry Miller from Michigan received parcels from Amazon that he did not order for a year. The man asked the online store several times to cancel shipments, but the goods continued to arrive.
As a rule, accessories for phones, bags for clothes and other trifles came in boxes. The packages bore Miller's exact address and phone number.
He was afraid that money would be debited from his account for goods that he never intended to buy. However, Amazon employees have assured that no fee will be charged from him.
“I opened the packages to make sure there was nothing illegal in them. The policeman said that if there was something like that, I would be above suspicion, ”Miller said.
The American admitted that he didn't like anything that was in the boxes - even the wireless headphones turned out to be pink. He intends to give the contents of the boxes to someone or throw them away.
A nine-year nightmare
Jean Van Landeham from Turnhout, Belgium, received pizza at home for about nine years, which he did not order. In 2011, a courier appeared at his doorstep, delivering 14 pizzas. Van Landeham did not accept the delivery and assumed the courier company had the wrong address.
Since then, he has been regularly delivered pizza, kebabs and other takeaway food. The dishes were brought by couriers from different companies, and the suppliers were different establishments. Couriers arrived at different times of the day and on weekdays and weekends. All this lasted nine years.
The Belgian never accepted the order or paid for it, respectively, courier companies and pizza makers also suffered losses.
“I just can't sleep anymore. When I hear a moped driving down the street, I get nervous, because I'm afraid that a new pizza delivery is coming to me again, ”said the 65-year-old Belgian.
During all this time, he never managed to find out who organized the deliveries. He suspects one of his friends, as another of his friends faced a similar problem.
“She, too, has been receiving unwanted pizza deliveries for nine years. Sometimes even on the same day. When we receive a delivery, we warn each other. Maybe someone from our common circle of friends is behind this. I want to know who, because I am very tired of this. This person will be in trouble when I find out who has been doing this for nine years, ”warned Van Landegum.
The inhabitants of the English village of Blackhall Collieri received very different parcels. For five years, they found wads of money on the streets for two thousand pounds (more than $ 2600). They took the bills to the police. Over the years, 26 thousand pounds (almost 34 thousand dollars) were transferred to the site. The unknown benefactor was nicknamed Blackhall Santa.
In 2019, the police decided to unravel the mystery of the money that was appearing and made this story public. In the end, two people confessed that it was they who left the money to help the villagers.
The couple wished to remain anonymous. It is only known that they are not married or related. Perhaps they initially acted separately, and then merged. One of the benefactors said that once a villager helped her, after which she wanted to thank him and his neighbors for their kindness.
The couple often left money on the sidewalks in places where retirees or needy people were more likely to find it.
The police were glad that the money was not connected with crime. Constable John Forster praised the villagers for bringing the found bills to the station.
Police do not know if the couple will continue to help the residents of Blackhall Collieri. At the same time, the authorities called on anyone who finds banknotes to hand them over to law enforcement officers. They promise to return the money to the finder if no one else applies for it within two weeks.
"We're all confused"
Last year, envelopes with money were tossed to residents of the small Spanish village of Villarramiel. The first such incident occurred on March 6. In just a week, an anonymous donor put envelopes in mailboxes or under the front doors of 15 families.
According to the head of the village of Nuria Simon Gonzalez, the recipients found up to 100 euros (about $ 117) in brown envelopes. Sometimes, along with the money, the recipient's address, his name and notes with compliments like "the princess of this house" and a picture of a heart were indicated.
Several residents decided to verify the authenticity of the found money and took it to the police or to the bank. The bills turned out to be real. The police did not begin to figure out the benefactor, since he did not harm anyone.
“We are all confused and waiting for a clue, because we do not know where this money came from. We do not know who this benefactor is and what his intentions are, Gonzalez reasoned. "A widow living with her son, couples with small children, elderly couples, middle-aged couples without children ... There is no obvious connection between the recipients of gifts."