Twenty-three-year-old Judson Lindsey has been saving and scrimping to build up his own farm near Camden, AR. This year he had some extra hay for sale. So, having read about the Arkansas Hay Directory on hayandforage.com, he listed his hay – using his email address as contact information.
That email address was enough for two possible hay scammers to reach the young farmer. One went as far as to send Lindsey a check for 10 times the amount of his hay, asking him to cash it and wire the rest of the “buyer’s” money to his freight hauler.
“I probably wouldn’t have been suspicious if I hadn’t read on your Web site about this going on in Missouri,” says Lindsey.
Some growers, with hay listed on the Missouri Hay Directory, were contacted by supposedly interested buyers. Growers were told they’d receive substantial checks and be asked to wire transfer funds to truckers who would supposedly pick up the hay. Sham buyers then would claim they overpaid the sellers and ask sellers to send part of the funds back via wire transfer. Days or weeks later, the sellers would find out the original payments did not clear.
Luckily, Lindsey decided to get his lawyer father’s advice. He, in turn, consulted a banker friend.
"The people who pull these scams choose large banks that will not verify or confirm if the funds are there. What the scammers do is steal routing numbers off checks so the checks would seem to clear,” Lindsey says he learned. Within a month, the bank would realize the funds weren’t there. But by then the scammer’s long gone, he adds.
One of the alleged scammers left clues he wasn’t on the up and up. He asked for horse-quality hay but seemed as happy to get lower quality. “I also asked him where he was located and he wouldn’t respond to that. He ignored that but answered everything else.”
The “buyer” also didn’t seem too concerned with shipping costs. “He wanted 15 rolls. If you’re going to send an 18-wheeler out, I would think you’d want to load it with 30 rolls, or as many as it would hold,” Lindsey says.
Yet, at times, that alleged scammer made the transaction appear as “legit” as possible, Lindsey says. “He sent the check by Federal Express, which had a return address in New York.”
Although Lindsey early on recognized the queries as possible scams, he’s asked Hay & Forage Grower to warn other growers.
“Farmers I know who are trying to sell hay – a verbal agreement is as good as a contract. You give your word you’re honest, that’s all they need to hear. I would hate to see them get taken,” he says.
Other Arkansas growers using the Arkansas Hay Directory also have complained about possible scammers, says John Jennings, Arkansas extension livestock specialist. Lindsey thinks the scammers chose him because he listed his email address. That has Jennings thinking he’ll ask growers not to include that method of contact – at least until scammers stop targeting his site.