Those looking to purchase hay should beware.
RCMP are warning of an online hay sale scam that's already affected some individuals in rural and farming communities within the province.
The extreme drought conditions this past summer have jacked up not only the high demand for hay but also the price.
This may push some farmers and agricultural workers to make a purchase without taking time to properly verify or research production sources.
Corporal Sean Milne with the Alberta RCMP Provincial Financial Crime Team said that these scammers really know their stuff.
"One thing we have noticed is that the people doing the communication and the sales have an above-average understanding of what makes for good hay. So, they’ll be able to quote actual mixes that are attractive to people instead of just saying, well, this is generally hay."
Various groups have gotten about $64,000 out of scam victims already, and that's just an estimate from the cases that were actually reported.
According to the reports, the largest deposit lost to a scammer was over $5,000 and the minimum $1,000.
The ones who avoided getting scammed had insisted upon speaking on the phone, refused to send advance deposits, and paid cash when the goods were delivered.
Social media as well as buy-and-sell platforms have been a popular spot for fraudulent listings and typically require payment before the buyer even has the opportunity to research the producer, see the product, or receive the delivery.
Just this summer, both Evansburg RCMP and Grande Prairie RCMP received similar reports of transactions on Facebook Marketplace for a purchase of hay where a quantity of money was sent through an e-transfer.
No hay was delivered, and the funds were lost.
The RCMP has a list of key indicators for recognizing a potential online scam:
- Generally, sellers will only communicate through text messaging and avoid phone conversations.
- Sellers can be located anywhere in the world and will get the attention of buyers by having specific or specialized knowledge of hay products.
- Pricing will be attractively low and will be consistent with the previous year’s market price.
- Often, there will be an insistence of a 50% deposit but once the deposit is received, there may be excuses about delayed delivery and then communication stops.
Anybody who suspects a scam or has been a victim of fraud should report it to their local police, to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501, or online at http://www.antifraudcentre.ca.
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