Fun with Online Horse Shopping & Taking Down Scammers

I’m a multitasker. If I watch Netflix or mess around on the computer after work, I usually dedicate half of the screen to a horsey merchandise/horse selling website so I can freely browse the horses and horse stuff that I don’t need or can’t afford and I pick out the things that I would buy if I could afford it. Usually I just enjoy looking and day dreaming, but occasionally I can’t resist looking into it. Horse shopping is my hobby.

In light of the frustration and drudgery of the past months’ worth of rides attempting to achieve at least four strides of a two-beat trot on my incredibly gaited (also incredibly patient) horse Shiloh, I’ve been sniffing around more intentionally for a dressage horse. I know gaited dressage is gradually starting to be a thing, but for some weird reason I am really resisting going that direction. I wish I could be more practical, since Shiloh could quite possibly kill it if he were allowed to gait and do his thing, but I feel like all I know is “normal” ie. Dressage for horses with regular, rhythmic walk, trot, and canter. I can barely manage to keep rhythm in an ungaited horse’s trot, much less attempt to manage the wide assortment of gaits that Shiloh is capable of (some natural, some due to his lack of balance and coordination). Ideally, I would like to own a horse that I can learn from instead of try to teach. I wish I could take lessons, show, and go to clinics with my own horse instead of borrowing other horses. This will be a long process with many aspects to consider.

So I was piddling around on Horseclicks, trying to find suitable dressage prospects in my state (which is practically a joke, given the general disinterest in the sport in this area). I always sort the page from lowest price to highest because I don’t need the trauma of accidentally clicking on a $12,000 horse and drooling over it for an hour before slipping into a depression about my current lack of funds. There was an Appaloosa trained up to first level, and it was actually quite balanced. It was a pretty leopard Appy that looked kind of like a Knabstrupper. But I kept scrolling till suddenly…woah! Was that a Friesian? Maybe a Morgan with lots of hair? Nope, a purebred Friesian. Wait, I thought I was in the low price section. I am! She was listed for $1,100. I had a freak out moment.

It was a little troubling that the seller shouldn’t put capital letters where they ought to be and he used the word “race” instead of “breed.” But whatevs. I contacted the seller. They emailed me back right away with a story about how she was a lovely horse and would give me lots of love. Uh, okay. So I emailed and asked some questions.

This time the guy emailed me back saying “It is really a shame that you will not be able to see the horse before purchasing….she is a wonderful horse. I am not trying to make money I just want her to go to a good home.”

Then he proceeded to outline very detailed instruction on how he wanted me to wire $750 upfront to get the horse a plane ticket. A plane ticket! I though the horse was in my state?

Needless to say, I ended my inquiry then and there. I went back to Horseclicks and scanned all the Friesians in the lower price section. Low and behold, I had found the amazing omnipresent low price Friesian. She was listed in Arkansas, Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee, and several others. I spent over a half an hour picking out the ads (which were easy to find because he used the same Friesian stock photos for each ad and a very similar description with deplorable spelling throughout) and flagging them as scams. I must have flagged at least fifteen of them.

Moral of the story, there are hundreds of scams running on horse websites. This kind of fraud is a serious crime and we should watch out with constant vigilance. Reporting scams is fairly easy and could save some of the more naïve online horse shoppers from a lot of trouble.

In order to safeguard yourself, your friends, and the equine fellowship all over the world, we must be constantly vigilant and aware of these seedy tactics.

When looking at a post, beware if:

  • The seller uses very poor grammar and spelling. Many of these types of scams (not limited to horses) are run from call centers in different parts of Africa.
  • The seller includes stock photos of certain breeds.
  • The horse is listed under an invalid city.
  • The descriptions are sparse and include phrases like “wonderful family horse for rehoming” or “loving horse for adoption.”
  • A very expensive breed (Friesians, Gypsy Vanners, Warmbloods, etc.) or pedigree is listed thousands below regular market price.
  • The horse is carelessly referred to as both mare and gelding in the same ad.
  • You find similar ads on the same page with the same contact information and the same claims about the horse in question.

When you contact the seller, beware if:

  • The phone number is directed to a fax machine or an unrelated business.
  • The horse is listed in one state, but when the seller contacts you they say it is currently in another part of the country.
  • The seller tells you he/she got a new job and must get rid of the horse because the horse is now in a different state.
  • The seller tells you that you won’t be able to see the horse before purchasing.
  • The seller gives you instructions to wire money as a “deposit” and pay shipping to deliver the horse, or the seller inexplicably lowers the price to just shipping costs because he/she “only wants it to go to a loving home and doesn’t care about the money.”
  • The seller wants to use an “approved agent” from the horse selling website to oversee the transaction. Most websites do not use agents and absolutely will not get in the middle of a sale.
  • The seller is eager to have you to pay through an Ebay account or Paypal.
  • The seller is in an all fire rush to sell the horse and seems to be a bit too enthusiastic about arranging the money transfer and shipping.

Obviously, some of the seller contact points occur in a reputable Equine sale. Many sellers are indeed across the country and need to quickly sell their horse, and once I actually accepted payment for a horse through Paypal. If you ever do use Paypal money transfer for any transaction, they require a fee for the money transfer. I think it is 5%, but I am not sure. Make sure your buyer is aware of this fee and includes the appropriate extra money so you get paid in full.

However, when you start seeing too many red flags in the same post, it is time to stop daydreaming and report the ad as a scam. On most Equine listing websites, there is a built in scam flagging process for prospective buyers sensing foul play. I have outlined how to report a scam on some of the four most used horse selling sites, but if you pay attention to the formatting you should have no trouble finding out how to flag a scam on other similar horse sites.

Craigslist

This is probably the website that I search most frequently. Craigslist has websites for every region, which gives it a more “local” feel and I like the simplicity of the format. But even this site has its own population of scammers.

Craigslist 1

Equine Now

This is where I started looking my horse shopping hobby. They allow listings for horses, trailers, farm properties, and also tack and equipment. The scam flagging button is all the way down the page and a little to the left.

EquineNow 1

Horse Clicks

Just for kicks and giggles, I went back to Horse Clicks and looked at the Friesian page…aaaand, what do you know? The same jerk wad who tried to scam me is back up and running with a new account and phone number. Yeah, I flagged his butt. Again. Perhaps this will be my new hobby. The flagging icon is just above and to the left of the photos.

Horse Clicks 1

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