Bewildered residents in several states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida, have received unsolicited packages from China that contain face masks. While the packages haven’t caused any harm, cover labels that list recipients’ names, addresses, and even phone numbers have left people a little ill at ease.
“All of this information, including my cell phone number, [was] on there,” Shan Sharp of Clearwater, Florida, told WFLA. “I was afraid to even open it after I saw it.”
Sharp opted for the better safe than sorry route and threw her package right in the garbage, but others are holding out for an explanation before they take action.
“I just keep them tied up and sealed,” Michelle Barron of Hickory, Pennsylvania, told KDKA after a police officer advised her to dispose of the masks.
It’s not the first time in recent weeks that reports of unsolicited mail from China have circulated in the news—some people have also gotten packages of seeds. If you’re one of them, definitely don’t plant the seeds, since they could be damaging to the plants and wildlife in your area.
Though the mystery might never be fully solved, the Federal Trade Commission suspects that it could be a “brushing” scam, where retailers mail products to random consumers and then submit positive reviews online in their names. They might create new accounts using your information, or they might hijack your existing accounts. If you’ve received an unordered package, you should closely monitor your shopping accounts and contact customer service if you see a review (or any other activity) that isn’t yours. Changing your passwords is a good idea, too.
As for the products themselves: You have no obligation to try to ship them back or pay for them—but you might want to take the advice of Virginia’s Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department and simply toss them in the trash, even if they seem safe to use.