Alberta RCMP want to warn rural and farming communities of fraud that affects consumers looking to purchase hay.
There is now a high demand for hay which is being sold at increased costs due to extreme drought conditions throughout the summer. This may cause farmers and agricultural workers to make purchases without researching the production sources.
Across various RCMP jurisdictions this year, various groups have scammed victims of approximately $64,000. There is likely many cases not being reported, this figure could be significantly higher.
In Alberta, fraudsters have been placing listings for hay online, requesting immediate payment before buyers have the opportunity to research the producer, see the product in person, or receive delivery.
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, but no hay was delivered. The funds were never returned.
In all reported cases of hay fraud, the maximum individual deposit sent to scammers was over $5,000, and the minimum was $1,000. For individuals who avoided being scammed had refused to give deposits in advance. They insisted upon speaking on the phone, and had paid cash upon delivery of goods.
Here are some tips to identify a potential scam across online selling platforms:
· Sellers will usually communicate through text messaging and avoid phone conversations.
· Sellers can be located anywhere in the world, besides what may be posted in the Ad. The Ad’s will get the attention of buyers by having a specific or specialized knowledge of hay products.
· Pricing will normally be 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. Then the fraudster will stop all communication.