Police pounce on hay scams

Police pounce on hay scams

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A man using a stolen identity has been taking money for hay but not delivering, triggering a special police strike force.

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After depositing thousands of dollars into a hay supplier's account, Sarah* discovered the man she had trusted was not who she thought he was. And there would be no hay.

There was little use harassing the supplier because the man had stolen the identity of a legitimate business.

The man, who uses several aliases, has been operating throughout NSW, including the Mid North Coast, the Hunter Valley, the Southern Highlands, the Hills, and the Oxley, Nepean and Port Stephens areas.

There are concerns he may also strike in Victoria.

In response, NSW Police's rural crime investigators have established Strike Force Woden.

Police have received numerous reports of a person advertising hay bales on social media for a discounted price.

In each case, a police spokesperson said, the seller took an initial deposit for the fodder but did not deliver any product.

A number of people have lost money as a result of the scam.

NSW Police Force state rural crime coordinator Detective Insp Cameron Whiteside urged farmers and landholders to take extra care when purchasing fodder, water and other supplies to get them through the drought.

"These are difficult times, and it's disgusting to think anyone would seek to take advantage of people who have already been through so much," Det Insp Whiteside said.

"I would encourage anyone buying supplies online to only deal with people and businesses that have proven to be genuine in the past.

"Where possible, it is best to only hand over money until the goods are in your possession.

"And of course, the age old saying applies - if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is."

Det Insp Whiteside also appealed for anyone who thought they may have fallen victim to the scam to come forward and report it.

"It is important not to be embarrassed - scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch people off guard," Det Insp Whiteside said.

"Our officers need as much information as possible in order to investigate these crimes thoroughly and find those responsible.

"If you have any information that might assist our investigators, please contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au."

Australian Fodder Industry Association chief executive John McKew said the widespread drought conditions had seen hay move greater distances than ever before.

It meant that farmers were increasingly forced to deal with people outside their normal networks.

"Particularly over the last two years, a lot of product has moved long distances," Mr McKew said.

"It's always advisable to deal with someone who's reputable, who has some experience.

"Ask to speak to others they've dealt with and check whether they got what they were expecting.

"But, in the current climate climate when things are tight with regard to hay and fodder supplies, people are taking a little bit more risk.

"When you're in a situation where you're desperate for the product and you think you've found a source of supply, I can understand why people don't necessarily do all the normal checks and balances they might have done in other situations.

"Very unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous people out there who are happy to take advantage of already disadvantaged people."

*Not her real name. The victim's privacy has been protected.

This story first appeared on Stock & Land.

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