BASTROP (Nexstar) — State livestock investigators are warning of a rise in scams targeting cattle producers who buy and sell online or on social media.
According to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), the fraudsters are targeting ranchers across the state, posing as prospective buyers on the internet.
“It’s happening all over,” TSCRA special ranger Kenny Murchison said. Murchison is one of 30 commissioned peace officers with the association who investigates crimes relating to livestock.
Murchsion described a common scenario in which scammers contact ranchers to negotiate a sale price over text or email.
“If I have cows for sale for $10,000… after we agree on a price, they send a check for $15,000. So when the ranch or contacts the scammer back they say, ‘Well the $5,000 is extra money for shipping so when the shipper gets there just give them that money,’” Murchison explained.
“So the rancher goes and cashes the money order or cashiers check, gets the money, and then the scammer contacts the rancher again and says, ‘Well I have had a problem, I can’t come get the cattle. You just keep the money that was going to go to the shipper and send me the other money back.’ And then come to find out the money order is counterfeit anyway,” Murchison added.
Another scam targets cattle producers buying livestock, equipment or hay.
The defrauder falsely advertises products using fake photos and misleading descriptions, and delivers inferior products or no products at all. According to TSCRA special rangers, those con artists often craft the transaction into a civil action, meaning law enforcement cannot pursue criminal charges and a lawsuit is the only option for victims.
“Through talking to the Attorney General’s office and the FBI, the scammers are in foreign countries, primarily Nigeria,” Murchison said.
A spokesperson for the Texas Attorney General’s Office could not confirm or deny any ongoing investigations, but shared the agency is “always accepting complaints about scams.”
“Any ranchers who believe they were contacted or affected by a scammer can call our Consumer Complaint Hotline,” spokesperson Kayleigh Lovvorn said in an email. The hotline phone number is (512) 463-2185, the toll-free number is (800) 621-0508, or ranchers can file a complaint online.
Ranchers are also encouraged to contact local law enforcement or reach out to TSCRA.
Murchison said ranchers who are contacted about purchasing livestock are urged to ask follow up questions to ensure the transaction is legitimate.
“If someone contacts you, get a little nosy,” he said. “Ask them who they usually buy their cattle from, how big is their place, what are they going to do with the cattle, and ask them who they know because usually they are going to know someone that you know.”
“If they can’t answer some of those questions than that should be a red flag,” he added.
Murchison has been with TSCRA for over three years after serving Travis County for nearly three decades. He previously worked in the auto theft task force.
“This is much better than chasing car thieves,” Murchison said.