The pictures show fantastic movement and the price looks to be a steal for the well-performed horse.
You email the seller and the horse is, indeed, still for sale. You can’t believe your luck! Your enthusiasm gets the better of your judgment and before you know it, you’ve shelled out money and the horse is nowhere to be seen.
Most regular internet users will be familiar with the so-called Nigerian scam. It follows a well-worn format. Millions in cash is tied up in a foreign country and, for a little help from your end, you will be handsomely rewarded. The only problem is, you need to meet some transfer and solicitors’ costs.
It will be a few hundred dollars – a very tidy sum, indeed, for a scammer who spends his days on a computer in Africa trying to dupe gullible Westerners.
The same rogues prowl online classified sites intent on making a tidy profit. The sites could be selling anything from watches and power tools to – you guessed it – horses.
It’s important to be aware of all the variations on the standard scam, but be warned: inventive crooks are coming up with new variations almost every day in the hope they will catch online users at a weak moment.
How do these scams work? The most common centres around “selling” an excellent horse at a very reasonable price. All they need to do is grab good images from a website pretty much anywhere in the world and they’re ready to post their shonky classified.
The deal will seem very tempting. They’re after people living out of town, who won’t be able to view the animal.
They are likely to engage the online buyer in an email or even telephone conversation. The aim is to get money paid into their bank account – and they don’t really care how they do it.
Ideally – from their viewpoint – you pay upfront, sight-unseen, and you never hear from them again. They might declare themselves so confident in the abilities of the horse that they’re happy to get half-payment now and the remainder after you receive the horse. They still make a handsome profit – and remember, they could be scamming half a dozen different potential buyers for the same horse.
It is a brave person who would buy any horse sight unseen, unless they receive solid advice from an independent and knowledgeable party.
Another twist is that they’ll let you have the horse before you pay for it. All you need to do is pay the $500 for having the horse transported. Or suggest you pay them to organise the veterinary check.
The horse may even be free – provided you pay the transport costs.
Another variation is offering to buy the horse or equipment you have for sale.
You provide your bank account number and they say they will pay for the both the horse and the transport at once. Nothing, it seems, is a problem.
The money turns up in your account but you discover they have paid too much. They email apologetically and ask you to transfer the balance back.
You blithely do so (with your own cleared funds) and a few days later their original transaction is dishonoured. The only transaction that was kosher was your “refund” – and you’ll never see the money again.
All these scammers are playing a numbers game. They realise that the great majority of people will see through their deception, but they rely on that small percentage of people who let down their guard to fall victim.
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