Trading Standards officers are warning horse buyers to beware of bogus online adverts posted by fraudsters.
In early June a stable owner from Somerset found one of her horses was advertised for sale by fraudsters after they copied her own advert.
Fiona Walker, owner of Dovecote Stables, found her ad selling a Friesian for £7,000 had been cut and pasted on to two horse sale websites — horsewizard.co.uk and dunsters.co.uk — but at a price of £900.
She said: “The original ad was on the Horse & Hound, HorseQuest and Horsemart sites, so they’d lifted it from one of these.
“I was alerted to these ads by a lady called Miranda Aldridge, who thought the price was too good to be true.
“The reply she got [from the supposed seller] was poorly written and obviously dubious and that’s when she contacted me.”
The fraudsters request a deposit, or if they can persuade the buyer, the whole amount, to be wired to a foreign bank and then nothing more is heard from them.
Ms Aldridge of Wiltshire, who buys horses for clients, said: “I believe this scam is on a massive scale and tends to happen with the foreign breeds and whatever is the latest fashion.”
Jackie Crockett, also of Somerset, found her Friesian horses fraudulently advertised at a very cheap price on the Horsemart and Horse Hunter websites with a premium rate phone number that would make money for the number owner.
She said: “I rang Horsemart but while they took the photo down, they didn’t remove
the ad. I think there should be more control over these online ads — the websites have got a duty of care to the public. I wasn’t even advertising my horse. They must have taken the details from our website.”
H&H private sales manager Paula-Jayne Mitchell said: “Recently it has become apparent that adverts from our website have been copied and readvertised on sites that offer a free service.
“We would like to assure all H&H readers that we are taking every step to check that
all adverts placed in our magazine and on our website are legitimate.”
And Justin Reeves of the Horse Hunter website told H&H: “It’s a nightmare. We’re trying to tackle it. Our biggest problem is with Cameroon and Nigeria. We’re trying to block the IP addresses from those countries but they find ways around it.”
Trading Standards spokesman Tony Northcott said they cannot touch fraudsters who operate outside the EU.
- If you’ve experienced bogus online advertisements, call Trading Standards on tel: 08454 040506.
This news story was first published on Horse & Hound (2 July, ’09)