Alberta RCMP warns consumers of online hay sale scam

(File photo)

Alberta RCMP are warning rural and farming communities to be aware of scammers as they purchase hay this fall.

Extreme drought conditions this past summer has caused a high demand for hay and scammers are taking advantage.

Across various RCMP jurisdictions this year, various groups have scammed victims of approximately $64,000. With many cases potentially not being reported, this figure could be higher.

Fraudsters place listings for hay on social media and buy and sell platforms, requesting immediate payment before buyers have the opportunity to research the producer, see the product, or receive delivery.

This summer, both Evansburg RCMP and Grande Prairie RCMP received similar reports of transactions on Facebook Marketplace for a purchase of hay where a quantity of money was sent through an e-transfer, but no hay was delivered, and the funds were lost.

In all reported cases of hay fraud, the maximum individual deposit sent to scammers was over $5,000, and the minimum was $1,000.

For consumers, it is valuable to note that those who avoided being scammed had refused to give deposits in advance, insisted upon speaking on the phone, and had paid cash upon delivery of goods.

RCMP say that in fraud situations, sellers will only communicate through text messaging and avoid phone conversations and will set their pricing low and will be consistent with the previous year’s market price. In these situations there will be an insistence of a 50 per cent deposit but once the deposit is received, there may be excuses about delayed delivery and then communication stops.

If you, or anyone you know, suspect a scam or have been a victim of fraud, report it to your local police and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501, or online at antifraudcentre.ca.

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