Buying seeds online? Be careful!

By Sara Bruskin

Sowing seeds is one of spring’s most rewarding tasks. Lots of long-established online seed sellers, like Burpee and Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., are trustworthy sources with consistently reliable products. But if you want to buy seeds on Etsy or eBay for that gorgeous morning glory someone in Idaho is selling from their own garden, here are steps to take to make sure you don’t get scammed:

  • Do a quick reverse-image search of the photograph used in the listing (Google “reverse-image search” for instructions). If it turns out to be a stock photo or the same image used on Wikipedia, that’s a good indication of a scam. Real sellers will frequently use original photos of their own crop to show its quality and unique characteristics.
  • Read the reviews. This one is obvious, but sometimes you don’t come across the horror stories about moldy seed deliveries until you’ve already hit “Purchase.”
  • Look at the seller’s shop policies before purchasing. Many websites let independent sellers establish their own return/refund policies, so check to make sure you can get your money back if your seeds don’t sprout.
  • Many e-commerce sites give limited windows of time for customers to leave reviews on their purchases. This leaves seed buyers at a disadvantage, as they have to wait for the plants to grow before they really know the quality of the product. If you’re nervous about a particular seller, send a message to a past buyer who left an initial review to ask how their plants turned out.