Thanks to the internet, it’s now easier than ever to buy or sell a horse, sight-unseen, from hundreds of miles away.
While most people out there are open and honest, there will always be scammers lurking through the classifieds for an easy opportunity.
Unfortunately, horse sales seem to be a prime target for scams, so it’s important to be informed whether you’re buying or selling.
At the very least, they may waste your time, but at the worst, they could potentially steal thousands of dollars.
Luckily, by watching for these common red flags you can easily spot a scammer and avoid them completely.
5 Signs an Online Horse Seller is a Scammer
1. The deal is too good to be true.
The horse is often a valuable breed (ie. Friesian, Warmblood, Gypsy Vanner) with a high level of training and a very low price tag (usually below $5,000). In reality, deals like this just don’t exist!
2. They don’t allow you to have a vet (of your choosing) do a pre-purchase exam.
If they don’t allow the exam, or insist you use their own vet, don’t proceed. They could easily impersonate a vet and provide you with a report for a horse that doesn’t exist!
3. You’re asked odd, unrelated or vague questions.
The questions may be meant to distract you or make you feel more at ease. If they want to engage in a long series of emails, ask them to call you instead and speak in person.
4. The seller demands personal information.
You should never have to disclose anything in order to proceed with a sale.
5. Complicated payment instructions.
If they insist you pay through Western Union, or with a cheque or bank draft do your homework and find out where the money will be sent. Scam accounts are often based overseas.
Bonus Red Flag: The seller has bad grammar and poor spelling.
This is very common in scam emails, or when you’re being contacted by a child posing as an adult. Either way, it’s probably going to be a waste of your time.
5 Signs an Online Horse Buyer is a Scammer
- The buyer seems too good to be true.
They immediately offer to pay the full amount (or even more than the asking price) and promise a perfect home for your horse.
2. The buyer makes a decision to purchase you horse based on just a few photos or questions
Most honest buyers will ask a LOT of questions (see 101 Questions to Ask When Buying a Horse!) and ask for additional photos or video.
3. The buyer is not interested in seeing the horse in person (if they claim to live reasonably close) or having a pre-purchase exam completed.
While buying a horse sight unseen is not uncommon, most buyers will want to at least have a basic pre-purchase exam completed by a local vet.
4. The buyer plans to export you horse to another country.
Scammers will pretend to be an extreme enthusiast of a particular bloodline or breed and share their plans to bring the horse to their home country (which is meant to give the seller a distracting ego boost). Unless your horse is particularity unique or valuable, don’t believe it!
5. If you’re asked to pay for transportation or any other expenses to an outside source do not proceed with the sale!
The buyer may send you a fraudulent cheque to cover the costs, which will then bounce, but only after you’ve already paid the “shipper”.
Bonus Tip: Horses in the lower price range (between $1,000 – $5000) seem to be the most likely targets for buying scams.
Because there’s less money on the line, you might feel more at ease, but in reality you’re more at risk.
Planning to Buy or Sell? Check out these helpful posts:
101 Questions to Ask When Buying a Horse
Buying an Ex-Racehorse – Pros and Cons
What you Should Know Before Buying a Horse
Evaluating Conformation of a Dressage Prospect
How to Afford a Horse on a Budget
Making a Horse Sales Video that Works
Happy Riding (and horse shopping!),