You’d think that by now everyone with a computer would be wary of online ads and e-mail offerings that seemed too good to be true. But people in the horse world continue to be tempted. Now the infamous Nigerian internet fraud has taken on a new spin with internet horse trailer sales. The increasing growth of equestrian web sites offering free classified ads has provided a new venue for the Nigerian scam artists to test their talents. Horse trailers have been targeted because they are big ticket items.
“We discovered it through first hand experience,” states Tom Scheve, CEO of EquiInternational Inc., marketer of EquiSpirit Trailers. “A California horse owner, who happened to also be an investigator, called our office to warn us. She had found a brand new 2007 EquiSpirit two-horse model on (a free horse ad site) that was offered at more than half off the price. The buyer hoped there was some good reason for the low price, but there wasn’t. When the seller became evasive about showing her the trailer, and wanted a substantial deposit up front, she became suspicious and called us. Since we sell EquiSpirits direct throughout the country instead of through dealers, we can keep close track of our trailers and customers. We quickly discerned that the pictures on the ad were lifted from our web site, and that the seller did not exist in our files.”
The horse trailer scam worked the same way as fraudulent online ads for expensive saddles, RVs and other expensive products. First, information and pictures of a particular horse trailer were downloaded—by copying and pasting a photo—from a trailer dealer web site. Next, a classified ad was created and placed on as many free-advertising web sites as the scammers could find. Because they’re not horse-savvy, the ad writers often take the ad text verbatim from the dealer’s website. Once contact is made by an unsuspecting customer, a substantial deposit or even the entire amount is asked for in advance.
“I think that most horse owners will be sharp enough to detect that something’s wrong” Tom says. “The people working this fraud are not horse owners so e-mail responses to trailer questions are usually odd or evasive, sentence structure and grammar are strange, and in our case, the price was too low to be believable. But I suspect that the “pitch” will improve if the results show promise, so buyers need to be cautious.”
This time around, the potential buyer was apprehensive enough to do some investigating and was saved from a dead end purchase. In fact, email correspondence from the seller was tracked to Lagos, Nigeria. It had been routed by satellite through the Netherlands. The FBI has been contacted.