Alberta RCMP are warning rural and farming communities to be aware of fraud that affects consumers looking to purchase hay.
Due to extreme drought conditions this past summer, there is now a high demand for hay which is being sold at increased costs. This may cause farmers and agricultural workers to make purchases without taking time to properly verify or research production sources.
Across various RCMP jurisdictions this year, various groups have scammed victims of approximately $64,000. With many cases potentially not being reported, this figure could be higher.
Recently, fraudsters have been placing listings for hay on social media and buy-and-sell platforms, requesting immediate payment before buyers have the opportunity to research the producer, see the product, or receive delivery. 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, but no hay was delivered, and the funds were lost.
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 consumers, it is valuable to note that those who avoided being scammed had refused to give deposits in advance, insisted upon speaking on the phone, and had paid cash upon delivery of goods.
The following key indicators can help you to identify a potential scam across online selling platforms:
· Typically, 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 a 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.
If you, or anyone you know, suspect a scam or have been a victim of fraud, report it to your local police and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501, or online at http://www.antifraudcentre.ca. For more fraud prevention information, follow us on Facebook @RCMPinAlberta and Twitter @RCMPAlberta.