A Google search provides numerous articles by reputable horse businesses about how to avoid being scammed. Equine.com, Dreamhorse.com, MyHorseForSale.com, TheHorse.com, HorseTrailerWorld.com, and SavvyHorsewoman.com all have pages dedicated to educating you about scammers.
Common Denominators in Scams
Notably, they all say pretty much the same thing. Scammers have similar tactics across the board. Here are some red flags to look for any time you are contemplating an online transaction:
- The price is too low. In Part Three of this series, I provided a classic example of this. Remember the adage, If it seems too good to be true, it probably is (too good to be true)! Everyone loves a bargain, but don’t get suckered into a scam.
- They offer you more than you asked for, and they are very eager to complete the deal. They might offer you a cashier’s check for more than the asking amount.
- A request for wire transfer or Western Union exchange is a huge red flag. Another request might be to use Google Checkout.
- The scammer’s email address is free and web-based, such as Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo. Do some research on their email using sites such as pipl.com, spokeo.com, and Facebook.com to see if they have a web presence.
- The phone number doesn’t work.
- The seller demands personal information. Never divulge personal or financial information to someone you don’t know.
- If the seller asks you odd, vague, or unrelated questions they are attempting to put you at ease and develop a false sense of “friendship”. Alternatively, they may be trying to distract you from the “business at hand.”
- A BONUS RED FLAG is poor grammar or spelling.
Buying or Selling a Horse Online
There are several specific scams related to the horse industry. Buying or selling a horse online, or buying and selling a trailer are two common activities. When buying a horse online, here are some additional red flags that you are dealing with a scammer:
- You are not allowed to deal directly with the horse owner, and you are asked to pay a middleman for the horse.
- You can’t get a bill of sale.
- A pre-purchase exam is not available, or only available using a vet of the seller’s choice. Sometimes, the scammer will tell you the horse is at a show, and your only option for a pre-purchase exam is the show vet.
- Another show horse scam involves advertising the horse as a show horse, but the horse has no show record. The scam-alert page on TheHorse.com says:
If a horse has a less than stellar show record, it is fairly common practice to re-register the horse under a different name and falsely represent that it hasn’t competed at recognized competitions. Sometimes, a single horse or pony is registered multiple times under a variety of names.
- The horse is at a show but is not competing. Is it lame? Would it fail a drug test? Is there a behavioral issue that surfaces in the show ring?
Buying or Selling a Trailer Online
HorseTrailerWorld has an extensive list of red flags related to trailer deals. They call them “Fraud Triggers.” Many overlap with general scammer tactics, including the inability to speak directly with the person who is supposedly selling the trailer.
- The seller is currently out of the country or on vacation.
- You can’t inspect the trailer.
- The trailer is in storage, with a shipping company, on a ship, or in a different location than the seller.
- They won’t provide you with a VIN number.
- You need to provide a deposit before seeing the trailer.
- A link to a receipt is provided in lieu of an actual bill of sale.
The hotlinks provided will take you directly to the “fraud alert” pages on each of these popular equine sites. Educate yourself about common scammer tactics.
Maryann Scams a Web Developer Out of Thousands of Dollars
Soon, I will compile the information I have gleaned about Maryann ManyNames and submit it to the FBI. As this continues to unfold, I have learned that she scammed a young man in India out of roughly $8,000. He spent several months developing a site for her a couple of years ago. According to him, he considered her a friend, and she had even done some nice things for his family and young son. Ultimately, after spending many hours developing AmericanSportHorseRegistry.com, he grew tired of not being paid. He stopped work on the website. As a result, one of her partners called him and asked why he had stopped developing the site? The caller was shocked when he told them he hadn’t been paid. Apparently, they had paid Maryann thousands of dollars, but Lazarus had not seen a penny of the money. Remember, he considered her a friend.
In conclusion, no one wants to be suspicious or see a scam around every corner. On the other hand, it pays to be wary. In this crazy time of COVID-19, many scams related to the coronavirus are popping up. The FTC Consumer Sentinel Network reports that scammers pose as government officials. A spokesperson for the organization stated:
People need to be extra wary of any email, phone call or text from someone claiming to be from the CDC or the Social Security Administration or Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
It is hard to imagine that we have weeks more of social distancing. I hope you are all surviving and not going crazy. Hug your horses and companion animals!