Identifying Horse Scams

Horse scammers used to be easy to spot; brand new profiles, limited pictures, no actual posts, poor english on posts…. But, they’ve adapted to seem more legitimate.

Before I get into the story and more detail, I’ll list some red flags for those who may be in a rush.

Horse Sale Ad Scam Red Flags

  • The pictures have watermarks on them (random words/brands on the picture).
  • The pictures look filtered or the horse poses don’t really look like pictures of a sale horse. (the horse looks cute (like it was taken for social media) rather than clean pictures of legs/profile).
  • The horse looks too good for the price.
  • Seller claims they need a quick sale (moving, new job, bills, etc), that’s why the horse is so cheap.
  • The horse doesn’t fit the description (pay attention to gender and height!!).
  • Videos or pictures look like they’re from a horse show but the seller says the horse doesn’t have a show record.
  • When you message the seller, the English grammar is “off” or has a lack of punctuation and not reflective of the grammar used in the horse description (usually the horse description is copy/pasted from a legitimate ad).
  • The seller uses their “job” as an excuse to not be available for you to see the horse right away.
  • The seller says “I can meet you on x day but you need to put a deposit down so I don’t sell to someone else”.
  • Seller uses ma’am or sir excessively.
  • Seller claims they will give you a refund of your deposit.
  • Seller’s venmo/zelle/cashapp accounts do not match name or profile pic.
  • Seller cannot get you pictures of a specific thing (like left hind hoof only).
  • If you continue to ask questions, seller will occasionally ask if you’ve put in the deposit and that you need to send a screenshot of deposit.
  • Seller is weird about the location of the horse, if you do get an address, it’s usually a house for sale.
  • Seller will use manipulation techniques to rush you into a deposit or make you feel bad that you’re doing your due diligence.
  • Seller may have pictures in their profile but they all look like professional shots OR the pictures are of different people that look similar.
  • Seller’s profile is public but doesn’t have any interactions with other people (friends posting on wall, comments on pictures, etc.)
  • Seller is more interested in your deposit than the price of the horse (ex: you can offer over their asking price in cash and they won’t take it)

Still not sure? Here are some things to do to distinguish the person as a scammer.

  • Ask for more pics and videos (scrutinize them for functionality, is it a video of someone having fun, or is it a sale video showing movement at different gaits? Scrutinize horse markings, the pics may not be of the same horse)
  • Check pics/videos closely for water marks
  • Ask for nit-picky details (a picture of the hooves (maybe a specific one), a close up of front legs to look for splints, a picture of the horse with your name on a paper next to it, etc (something easy for someone to go snap real quick, but not a typical picture you can google)).
  • Google the address they sent you for the meetup
  • Ask them about landmarks to find the place (a dollar general on the corner, two stops signs before the cross street, etc)
  • Ask about other forms of payment for the deposit (like paypal).
  • More below…

The Sale Post

So here is the first post that came to my attention along with the description. The photos look like they *could be* really bad sale photos. The description of the horse sounds like it was written by a horse person who has a good handle of English grammar.

🚩First red flag is the watermark on the sale pics. They’re watermarked with my instagram handle. So if you see a watermark, go directly to google, and type it in as it appears on the picture. If you google “@rein.it.in.1” my instagram is the first thing there. If nothing pops up on google, try searching the main terms “rein it in” on facebook and it comes right up. If there’s no mention of a horse for sale, but you’re still hopeful, message the page/person.

🚩Second red flag is the pictures don’t really match the description. 1) This horse looks like a mare, 2) the saddle doesn’t match the disciplines listed in the description. Ironically, she would actually match a lot of that description but they picked the worst pictures, because the scammers have no idea what they’re doing.

Upon messaging the scammers, they sent videos, still watermarked. The videos were clips from some of my shows. 🚩Red flag: the person riding doesn’t look like the person selling (to be fair, some sellers are the videographers so not always a scam). 🚩Red flag: they were definitely show videos and not always good ones (they chose a video of me getting called off of a crazy cow? Who wants to see that with a horse for sale?).

The discussion with the scammer:

When asked about the horse’s show record (because the videos were from shows), the scammer said that the horse was never a show horse, they only use him for pleasure rides.

When asked about the watermarks, the scammer replied with, “that’s my mark so people don’t steal my pictures and use them to scam others”. (Ironic)

When asked about the Rein It In instagram page, the scammer replied “that’s my cousin”. I threatened to message them and the scammer replied with “that’s not a good idea, but if you really want to”

I then opened up the questions to my followers, requesting that they submit weird questions to see how far the scammer would go. We had questions ranging from “german style riding” to “gelding to gelding breeding”. It was obvious the scammer knew nothing of horses but hung in there, answering most of the questions albeit very poorly. Side note: If you’re interested in seeing this conversation, check out the highlights on my instagram page.

No matter what though, the scammer would occasionally bring the conversation back to the deposit.

Some important notes

These are not hard rules for identifying a scammer. Some sellers are not good at typing, some will offer to hold the horse for a deposit since the market is so crazy.

So how can you minimize your risk?

  • Offer to call the seller up on the phone to discuss the horse. If they’re legitimate, they’ll make time to talk to you.
  • Ask difficult questions that a serious horse person could easily answer. Ex: shoe size, shoe/trim frequency, what do they deworm with, what farrier/dentist/vet they use (most will be happy to give you a name and you can follow up). You don’t want to ask yes/no questions or questions where a random number could be the answer.
  • Ask for a very specific picture
  • Are they actively trying to get your schedules to line up before asking for a deposit? Normally they’ll only ask for a deposit if your schedules are just not working together (ex: your two hours away and can only get there in 5 days).
  • Google any watermarks that pop up. You can even ask for the same picture, but with a change to the watermark (ex: bigger, smaller, in the middle of the horse). Don’t ask them to send the original, then you’ll look like the scammer.

A small seller’s story

I sold a bumper pull trailer a few months ago. One gal really wanted to buy it but she lived 3 hours away and our schedules did not work well. It was going to take her 2 weeks to get to where I was and the trailer market was hot, so I told her that for a deposit, I’ll hold it for her. It shows me that she’s serious and not a tire kicker.

What I did for her: took new, more detailed pics; I marked all the facebook ads as pending, I power washed it and sent her pictures. I was happy to answer any questions she had. She didn’t know much about towing so I told her how weight distributing hitches work and what she’d need to come and tow this trailer safely. She took a leap of faith, sent me the deposit, and paid in full two weeks later.

So not all sellers who ask for a deposit are bad. Just take into account what the seller is doing to make you feel comfortable and why they’re asking for a deposit. I never would have asked for a deposit if she was able to see the trailer within a day or two.

For horse influencers/instagrammers/bloggers

Protect your IP the best you can. WATERMARK, WATERMARK, WATERMARK. It doesn’t always deter scammers from stealing your pics, but at least people can find you if they google your watermark.

Make sure your watermark is google-able. That way if your pictures are used in scams, people can find you. Initials or non-descript logos are not the way to go.

Additionally, add the watermark somewhere on the horse. I usually target the legs. That way, it’s hard for the scammers to crop out your watermark.

With this last scammer, about 10 people messaged me on instagram, who had never seen my profile before, asking if it was a legitimate ad. They were super bummed that it wasn’t a legitimate ad, but at least they didn’t lose hundreds of dollars.

After this last round of picture theft, I opted to change up my water mark. Below my instagram handle, I added “Horse Not For Sale”. Hopefully that’ll help a little more.

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