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Breeders’ warning over suspected foal scam

British breeders are warning others to stay alert to a potential scam, after being contacted by a woman offering to buy foals unseen.

Several established studs around the country have been contacted through internet adverts by the woman, who always asks for bank details to send a deposit.

The woman has also consistently declined to talk to breeders over the phone, claiming her handset is broken, and will only communicate via message.

Sacha Shaw of Volatis Stud said that while the woman’s behaviour made her instantly suspicious, she was keen to warn less experienced sellers to be on their guard.

“I had a text out of the blue with no introduction asking if she could give me a deposit on a foal. She asked for a loan-with-view-to-buy and said she would pay the balance off over a few months,” Sacha said.

“I asked a few questions but very quickly she asked for my bank details so she could transfer some money.

“I have sold sight unseen before but she didn’t seem interested in a vetting or a contract and I felt it was obviously a scam.”

Sacha said the woman was not typical of foreign scammers and seemed to have a good command of English as well as some equestrian knowledge.

“I posted it on a British breeders’ forum on Facebook saying that while I was sure no one would fall for it, I wanted to warn them,” she added. “I was surprised when everyone started replying saying they had also had dealings with the same person.”

Sacha said that in every case the woman had asked for the stud’s postcode and the postcode of where the foals were kept, along with bank details.

“I’m not sure if it’s definitely a scam or a fantasist — or possible even a child,” she added.

Sue Woodall, who is based on Anglesey, said she had been contacted multiple times over the summer by a woman who had seen her adverts for youngstock online.

“She contacted me about various horses I had for sale — I am not sure she realised at first that the adverts had all been placed by the same person,” Sue said. “She asked me some really random questions — such as would the foal come with a headcollar and was it bombproof in traffic.”

Most of Sue’s contact with the woman was regarding one foal who she asked for a £1,000 discount on and said she would keep at the stud.

“I said no and stopped her dead on several things,” Sue added. “I kept telling her if she wanted to know more, she should ring me but she never did and always made an excuse.

“It was a complete time-waste — I never got a definite impression she was trying to scam me and I did wonder if it was an older child messing about. It does sound like she has told different stories to different people.

“I believe she has continued approaching other studs.”

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H&H has previously issued advice to buyers and sellers online, including to be cautious of buyers offering to make purchases without viewing and to be very wary of people asking for bank details early on.

Another top tip is to always “use common sense” — if the communication does not fit the expected process of buying and selling a horse, don’t proceed with the sale, and if something appears too good to be true, it often is.

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

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