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Refund scam flagged by Canadian beef breeders

Scammers pose as buyers, try to swindle refunds before payments clear

Canadian cattle breeders should be on their guard after reports of an online scam.

The Canadian Beef Breeds Council issued a warning after numerous producers reported fake emails looking to set up a sale, then requesting a refund before cheques clear.

“It’s generally pretty high dollar values, so it gets the people excited that they’ve got a good lead,” said Michael Latimer, the council’s executive director.

Scammers pose as real companies and company staff, the council warned. The scammers then send a fraudulent, but valid-looking, cheque and contact producers after the cheque is deposited, but before it clears, requesting a partial refund.

“They expect that the producer would then wire transfer a portion of that money back to them and, of course, the original cheque doesn’t clear and (the producer) is out the money they’ve sent back,” Latimer said.

Bruce Holmquist, Canadian Simmental Association general manager and one of the lead industry contacts on the issue, said at least half a dozen producers across Western Canada have reported the scam, but many more may have received fraudulent emails.

“On the other side of things, it’s identity theft,” he said. “They are under the disguise of real companies with real people, so if you Google or do a LinkedIn or something like that, you’re likely to find who they claim to be.”

The council has yet to hear of any commercial breeders impacted, although Latimer said many of Canada’s main breeds, including Simmental, Angus and Limousin, have been affected.

The scam has also been circulating longer than first thought, Latimer added. Reports have heated up in the last two weeks, although the council said it has now heard of producers receiving emails as far back as a year.

Holmquist warned that scammers may frame the refund as miscommunication within a company, such as the company becoming inadvertently overbought.

“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” he said. “Ask questions… if they don’t ask for things like birth weights on an animal or some kind of performance information, that ought to be a red flag too.”

Holmquist reminded producers a cheque may take up to 10 business days to clear even after it has been processed by the farmer’s bank.

Latimer also advised due diligence on all transactions, both to avoid fraud and issues such as late payments.

“Don’t send money out if you haven’t received it or don’t release your cattle to people until you know you actually have the money in your bank account,” he said.

Police have been contacted about the scam.

— Alexis Stockford is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator. Follow her at @AlexisStockford on Twitter.