Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) Special Rangers have noticed a troubling increase in a scam that targets ranchers and agriculture producers. TSCRA’s Special Rangers are credentialed peace officers who primarily investigate livestock and agriculture related crimes, including theft by fraud.
Over recent weeks Special Rangers across the state have received reports from ranchers who have been targeted by the scams. The details vary, but most incidents follow a similar theme: A buyer, often from out of state, will call to inquire about cattle, hay or equipment that is for sale. The two parties will agree on a price and the buyer will send a check or cashier’s check, which is where the trouble begins. The check sent by the buyer will be over the agreed to price, and the buyer will ask that the check be cashed and the extra money wired or given to someone else to pay for transportation and delivery.
In some cases, the scammer has no intention of making the purchase. The check is counterfeit, designed to look legitimate for just long enough that it can be cashed and the money wired. In other cases, the scammer will attempt to obtain the items before the check has finally cleared and is found to be counterfeit. In either case, the victim will be left liable for the funds while the crook enjoys the ill-gotten proceeds, and potentially the stolen livestock or equipment.
“Knowledge is power in these sorts of situations,” said Larry Gray, the director of law enforcement at TSCRA. “If you are aware of the red flags and act cautiously you can avoid falling victim to such scams.”
Gray offered a few tips to stay safe:
- Try to do business with people you know. When working with an unknown buyer, try to verify their information through a third party.
- Be cautious about accepting checks—even a cashier’s check—from people you do not know. It can be difficult to pursue a remedy if the transaction goes bad.
- Never accept a check for more than the selling price if you are expected to give the excess to someone else.
- If you do accept a check, contact the institution that issued it to verify the authenticity, and if possible ask that the check be drawn from a bank with a branch in your area.
- Be especially wary if someone insists that you send funds by wire transfer
- Make sure the check has finally cleared before you deliver the items, and save all your documentation.
Ranchers who are concerned about a sale or buyer are encouraged to contact their local TSCRA Special Ranger to report suspicious activity. You can locate your TSCRA Special Ranger here.