British vendors advertising their horses over the Internet are being targeted in what appears to be a further twist in a series of Nigerian financial scams that have taken in hundreds of unsuspecting investors all over the world in recent years.

In the latest version, horse owners who have advertised on an internet horse sales site are contacted by a person purporting to be a potential buyer for an animal they have advertised.

The “buyer” explains that he or she is from Africa, (usually Nigeria, but contacts from South Africa and Kenya have also been recorded) and would like to pay for the horse in question, plus the shipping charges, with a cashier’s cheque. Some buyers offer more than the asking price in order to secure the deal.

The vendor is then asked to refund the shipping costs as part of a “finder’s fee” arrangement, and to pay this by bank transfer. The cashier’s cheque turns out to be counterfeit, but this fact is not usually uncovered until the horse has been shipped and the money transferred.

Bedfordshire owner Maxine Warner had advertised her horse in the equestrian press and on the web, and was intrigued to get an email from the Benin Republic in Africa. It expressed interest in her 16hh bay Thoroughbred mare and offering the asking price of £2,500, to be paid as a cheque drawn from a British bank.

When she agreed the sale, the “purchaser” replied, saying that a client owed him £5,500 and that he would ask this client to send Maxine a cheque for this amount. She was then to send him a transfer for the difference via Western Union – he stated that this was because cheques take longer to clear in Africa than the UK. At this point, she became suspicious and backed out of the deal.

“I don’t think I could send my horse to Africa anyway, but I wassuspicious of his motives. I am concerned that he will have some luck [with British vendors]. At least one person I have spoken to says she can’t believe I’m not going to take up the offer,” says Maxine.

If you have been targeted after advertising a horse on the Internet, contact your local police. For more information on avoiding fraud, visit www.met.police

Read the fullstory in this week’s Horse & Hound (20 March), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.