- Action Fraud is warning the equestrian community about a scam involving fake adverts of horses for sale.
- Victims are told to pay an up-front fee for the horse and it’s shipment only to later find that it doesn’t exist.
- Between 2014 and 2017, victims lost £68,717 to this fraud; an average of £3,436 per victim.
Action Fraud is warning horse buyers about fraudulent ‘for sale’ adverts. Fraudsters are placing fake adverts on reputable equestrian sale websites to scam victims out of large amounts of money. Fraudsters will even support their claims of the horse’s existence by supplying copies of relevant ownership documents, pictures and videos of the animal.
Although the adverts claim the horses are located in the UK, victims are later told that they’re located elsewhere in Europe and that the horse’s shipment can be arranged via an animal transport company.
On agreeing to buy the horse, victims are then contacted by someone who claims to be an agent of the transport company, who asks them to pay the purchase price and shipping costs of the animal either by money transfer or a direct transfer of funds into a nominated bank account.
In some cases, victims are contacted about problems with the horse’s delivery, such as the need for vaccinations, special insurance or costs arising from veterinary fees and requests are made to cover these additional costs.
Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said:
“With such large amounts of money involved, this type of fraud can have a significant and severe impact on the health and wellbeing of victims.
“If you are looking to buy a horse online, it is vital that you thoroughly check the details of where you are making the purchase from and be sure to follow our advice below.
“We urge those who think they have been a victim of fraud to report this to Action Fraud.”
How to stay safe when purchasing a horse online:
- Be wary of horses being offered for sale below their usual market value, particularly where the seller is looking for a quick sale due to a recent family bereavement, marital breakdown or other issues. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Be wary of purchases where the advert suggests that the horse is in the UK but the seller later informs you that it is in another country.
- Be cautious when buying a horse without seeing it, particularly when the only option of a vet check has been the sellers vet.
- Never pay by bank transfer for goods which will be subject to delivery as the payment cannot be reversed.
- Be cautious of transactions where the seller or shipping agent asks you to make payment by sending money via a money transfer company as the payment cannot be reversed.
- Check the country code of the seller’s telephone number and make sure it relates to the country that they claim to be in.
- Every Report Matters – If you have been a victim of equine fraud, report it to us online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
How has this happened before?
Case study 1:
A victim lost £6,800 to this type of fraud. The victim was looking to purchase a horse and was in contact with the ‘seller’ who advised the total amount was for the horse, shipping, transportation and documents as the animal was coming from Germany. Victim A paid £6800 in total via Western Union and was later asked to pay another £1700 as the horse was stuck in Belgium and needed particular documents. The victim knew at this point that it was suspicious and managed to gain the seller’s phone number which they traced back to Cameroon. The victim then asked for the documents to be faxed through to her, however this was not done.
Case study 2:
A victim was looking to purchase a horse online, which resulted in them losing £2,600. The victim came into contact with the ‘seller’ through a website and had been informed initially that the horse was in Cambridge, only to later be informed that it was in Germany. The victim was told that the horse would be sent via a shipping company in Frankfurt and they advised a credit card payment could be taken for shipping fees. The seller claimed that the card was being declined and instead took payment through a bank transfer. An additional amount was requested as an insurance fee/ferry boarding fee. At this point, the victim became suspicious, would not pay the additional amount and called Action Fraud.
Case study 3:
A victim saw a horse being advertised online and contacted the suspect, who asked for the victim to make an electronic bank transfer payment of £2,300. The victim made the payment and was sent links from the shipping company to a spoof web page which made it look like the horse was in transit. The suspect then came back and asked for another payment for international clearance of the horse. The victim started to get suspicious and did some research to find that the payment the suspect was asking for did not exist and this is when the victim knew they had been defrauded.
Case study 4:
A victim purchased a horse from Hungary through social media and it was agreed that an advance fee of over £500 would be made via Western Union to cover the transport of the horse. The payment for the horse was to be made when it arrived in the UK. The seller then asked for more money. The victim then said he would not pay any more money, cancelled the deal and asked for the money to be refunded, at which point the seller said he had no money to refund.