Action Fraud Warning to the Public as Equine Fraud Costs Victims £70,000

3rd May 2018

  • Action Fraud is warning the equestrian community about a scam involving fake adverts of horses for sale.
  • Victims are told to pay an up-front fee for the horse and it’s shipment only to later find that it doesn’t exist.
  • Between 2014 and 2017, victims lost £68,717 to this fraud; an average of £3,436 per victim.

Action Fraud is warning horse buyers about fraudulent ‘for sale’ adverts. Fraudsters are placing fake adverts on reputable equestrian sale websites to scam victims out of large amounts of money. Fraudsters will even support their claims of the horse’s existence by supplying copies of relevant ownership documents, pictures and videos of the animal.   

Although the adverts claim the horses are located in the UK, victims are later told that they’re located elsewhere in Europe and that the horse’s shipment can be arranged via an animal transport company.

On agreeing to buy the horse, victims are then contacted by someone who claims to be an agent of the transport company, who asks them to pay the purchase price and shipping costs of the animal either by money transfer or a direct transfer of funds into a nominated bank account.

In some cases, victims are contacted about problems with the horse’s delivery, such as the need for vaccinations, special insurance or costs arising from veterinary fees and requests are made to cover these additional costs.

Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said:

“With such large amounts of money involved, this type of fraud can have a significant and severe impact on the health and wellbeing of victims.

“If you are looking to buy a horse online, it is vital that you thoroughly check the details of where you are making the purchase from and be sure to follow our advice below.

“We urge those who think they have been a victim of fraud to report this to Action Fraud.”

How to stay safe when purchasing a horse online:

  • Be wary of horses being offered for sale below their usual market value, particularly where the seller is looking for a quick sale due to a recent family bereavement, marital breakdown or other issues. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be wary of purchases where the advert suggests that the horse is in the UK but the seller later informs you that it is in another country.
  • Be cautious when buying a horse without seeing it, particularly when the only option of a vet check has been the sellers vet.
  • Never pay by bank transfer for goods which will be subject to delivery as the payment cannot be reversed.
  • Be cautious of transactions where the seller or shipping agent asks you to make payment by sending money via a money transfer company as the payment cannot be reversed.
  • Check the country code of the seller’s telephone number and make sure it relates to the country that they claim to be in.
  • Every Report Matters – If you have been a victim of equine fraud, report it to us online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

How has this happened before?

Case study 1:

A victim lost £6,800 to this type of fraud. The victim was looking to purchase a horse and was in contact with the ‘seller’ who advised the total amount was for the horse, shipping, transportation and documents as the animal was coming from Germany. Victim A paid £6800 in total via Western Union and was later asked to pay another £1700 as the horse was stuck in Belgium and needed particular documents. The victim knew at this point that it was suspicious and managed to gain the seller’s phone number which they traced back to Cameroon. The victim then asked for the documents to be faxed through to her, however this was not done.

Case study 2:

A victim was looking to purchase a horse online, which resulted in them losing £2,600. The victim came into contact with the ‘seller’ through a website and had been informed initially that the horse was in Cambridge, only to later be informed that it was in Germany. The victim was told that the horse would be sent via a shipping company in Frankfurt and they advised a credit card payment could be taken for shipping fees. The seller claimed that the card was being declined and instead took payment through a bank transfer. An additional amount was requested as an insurance fee/ferry boarding fee. At this point, the victim became suspicious, would not pay the additional amount and called Action Fraud.

Case study 3:

A victim saw a horse being advertised online and contacted the suspect, who asked for the victim to make an electronic bank transfer payment of £2,300. The victim made the payment and was sent links from the shipping company to a spoof web page which made it look like the horse was in transit. The suspect then came back and asked for another payment for international clearance of the horse. The victim started to get suspicious and did some research to find that the payment the suspect was asking for did not exist and this is when the victim knew they had been defrauded.

Case study 4:

A victim purchased a horse from Hungary through social media and it was agreed that an advance fee of over £500 would be made via Western Union to cover the transport of the horse. The payment for the horse was to be made when it arrived in the UK. The seller then asked for more money. The victim then said he would not pay any more money, cancelled the deal and asked for the money to be refunded, at which point the seller said he had no money to refund.

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Generator Stolen From Stables in Stretton on Dunsmore

Some time between 19.00hrs and 06.30 hrs unknown offender(s) have entered secure land with stables in Stretton on Dunsmore and stole a generator.

If you saw anyone acting suspiciously in the area or have any information that could help the police with their enquiries please call 101 and refer to inc 372 of 18/4/18.

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Theft From Car in Alcester Heath

Alcester Heath
At just before 6pm on 10 April, a horse owner was tending to her horses in a field at Alcester Heath. When she returned to her car, her child told her that a male had taken her bag from the car.
If you saw anyone acting suspiciously in the area or have any information that could help the police with their enquiries please call 101 and refer to inc 265 of 10/4/18.

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Incidents Reported in Willington

Incident 57 of 10 April – Willington:  During the night of 9 into 10 April, offenders entered the yard of a farm premises in Willington and then broke into a metal shed.  It is not clear what was stolen.

Incident 59 of 10 April – Willington:  During the same night, offenders broke into outbuilding workshops at another farm premises in Willington and stole a fire extinguisher.

If you saw anything or have any information that could help the police with their enquiries please call 101 and refer to the incident number stated.

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Field Entered in Hartshill

Some time between 16.30 hrs on 10/4/18 and 10.20 hrs on 11/4/18, unknown offender(s) moved fencing and entered a field on Grange Road, Hartshill with a vehicle.  An insecure shed was entered, nothing taken.  A part was taken from and damage caused to a vehicle on site.

If you saw anyone or have any information that could help the police with their enquiries please call 101 and refer to inc 122 of 11/4/18.

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Suspicious Circumstances Reported at Stables in Cubbington

Some time between 1845hrs on Tuesday 13-MAR-2018 and 0830hrs on Wednesday 14-MAR-2018 a horse that was left by its owner in a stable was found the following morning in the field.  A disturbance was heard during the early hours of the 14-MAR-2018, but it is not known if this was related.

If you saw anyone acting suspiciously in the area please advise the police by calling 101 and refer to inc 82 of 14/3/18.

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Tack Theft in Wolverley – West Mercia Police Alert

Sometime between 3pm 28th Feb and 8am 1st March horse tack was stolen from a stables in the Horseley Hill area of Wolverley.

Items stolen included; 10 x horse collars, one burgundy saddle pad with personalised name embroidered, one navy blue saddle pad with personalised name embroidered, leg bandages, travel boots and some bridle wraps.

If you have any information regarding the thefts, or see the above items for sale please contact the police on 101 quoting ref: 0179S 010318

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Quad Bike Taken in Cosford

Some time between 17.00 hrs and 23.45 hrs on 28/2/18, unknown offender(s) have stolen a white, black and orange EDL Mad Max 250CC quad bike from a rural property in Cosford.  It is believed the quad was taken across fields in the direction of Churchover.

If you saw anything or have any information tht could help the police with their enquiries please call 101 and refer to inc 425 of 28/2/18.

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Horse Rescued in Austrey

At 1729 hours, Friday 23rd February, Fire Control received a call to a Shire horse trapped in a hole.  A fire crew from Polesworth and the specialist Large Animal Rescue Unit from Rugby attending.  Crews confirmed upon arrival that one female Shire horse was trapped by her rear legs in a hole.  The Vet was in attendance advising crews.  Upon arrival of the Large Animal Rescue Unit steady progress was being made with releasing of the horse. At 1850 hours, Fire Crews had released the horse  and will be detained a further fifteen minutes.

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Sheep Stolen in Bidford on Avon

Bidford on Avon:  Over the last few months, offenders have stolen around 40 sheep from fields at a farm premises in Bidford on Avon.

If you have any information that could help the police with their enquiries please call 101 and refer to inc 271 of 20/2/18.

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