Hay growers need to stay vigilant when it comes to email hay inquiries and orders because scammers are still on the prowl, warns Mark Murphy, Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) marketing specialist. The scam was reported in eHay Weekly last fall, and the challenges continue this spring. “There has been an ongoing email scam targeting hay producers on our Missouri Hay Directory Web site,” says Murphy. “It is unfortunate that this continues, and we need to get the word out to hay producers who may not have been aware this is happening.”

The email ruse tends to come in the form of an overpayment scam. A grower makes an agreement with the scammer, then receives a check for more than the amount requested. He’s then asked to wire transfer funds to a trucker, who will supposedly pick up the hay in the coming days. Days or weeks after that payment is sent to the hauler, the grower finds out that the original check from the scammer didn’t clear the bank, and the grower has been taken for thousands of dollars. “Several producers have gotten checks via Federal Express or UPS,” Murphy reports. “The checks look good and often have been written on major banks. Some producers have been wary and have taken the checks to the banks before sending the wire transfers, and have been able to find out the checks have insufficient funds.”

Murphy says the emails tend to be written in somewhat broken English and generally don’t read very well. “Our Missouri attorney general’s office says the scam seems to come from overseas. It is very difficult to track down the origins of the scam,” he says. The MDA has taken email addresses out of its online hay directory in response to the scam. Murphy says growers shouldn’t necessarily stop responding to emails about their hay, but should use caution when evaluating purchase requests that have taken place solely via email.