Australia is set to roll out new X-ray technology to fight against what’s being referred to as a “brushing scam”, where small goods such as foreign seeds are sent as part of a false customer-boosting activity.
Guardian Australia‘s tech guru Josh Taylor revealed that the Australian agriculture department’s X-ray trial is a world-first to try and identify mysterious mail packages that haven’t actually been ordered by anyone.
Taylor explains the concept of brushing scams as one where online sellers from storefronts such as Amazon and eBay create fake customer accounts to deliver products to so they can artificially leave five-star reviews and boost their online presence.
Most concerningly, the names and addresses used for these fake accounts are of real people, using details obtained through data breaches. Reportedly 228 Australians have so far received unknown seed packages in the mail, in addition to cases abroad in the US and New Zealand.
According to the Australian agriculture department’s head of biosecurity Lee Cale speaking to Guardian Australia, most of these deliveries have originated from China, Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan.
In an effort to combat the practice, the Australian agriculture department is using new X-ray machines as part of a $1 million trial, alongside sniffer dogs.
Guardian Australia reports that department briefing documents label the trial as “a world first seed detection project using real-time video imagery, an auto-detection algorithm, and low-energy, high-resolution X-ray to detect the presence of seeds inside mail articles”.
In other words: fancy X-ray machine find strange seeds good.
Early tests in Brisbane are providing promising results in picking up the seeds, with plans to expand to Sydney and the rest of Australia soon.
It’s important to note, if you happen to receive any of these packages, do not plant the seeds. Or eat them, for that matter. Report them via the agriculture department’s website or call 1800 798 636.
I repeat, do not plant or eat mystery seeds you receive in the mail!
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Chris is an award-nominated writer based in Adelaide who specialises in covering video games and technology. He loves Donkey Kong Country, sport, and cats. The Last Jedi is the best one, no questions asked.