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Are You an Easy Target? How to Avoid Equestrian-Related Internet Scams

We know how much joy and value the online world brings to our community. From buying that perfect horse to swapping gear, our platform aims to make these transactions as smooth as possible. Yet, it’s essential to know how to protect yourself online. In this guide, we’ll highlight some best practices for ensuring a secure equestrian transaction.

Disclaimer: While we discuss certain laws, please note that regulations can differ by state and locality. We assume no liability for the information provided. For specific legal advice, consult a professional.

Spotting the Genuine from the Not-so-Genuine Classifieds

The beauty of our platform lies in the diverse variety of listings it offers. While the majority of these are genuine, it’s important to exercise caution. One telltale sign of a scam is spelling mistakes—especially in the name of a breed. We recommend conducting a reverse image search to determine if a photo has been lifted from another site. Additionally, pay close attention if the description doesn’t align with the picture.

The Price Factor

If a deal appears too good to be true, it often is. While everyone loves a bargain, a horse listed at an unbelievably low price warrants a second look. Always do your research to ensure you’re making a wise emotional and financial investment.

Knowing Who You’re Dealing With

Personal interaction adds another layer of safety to online transactions. Make an effort to speak to the seller over the phone or meet in person when feasible. Also, feel free to ask for identity verification and references; it’s standard practice for peace of mind.

Proactive Measures for Safe Transactions

Whether buying or selling, a few steps can make your transaction much more secure:

  1. Always verify documents, be it equine registration papers or property deeds.
  2. Conduct appropriate checks; for example, vet checks for horses or property inspections for real estate.
  3. Use secure and traceable payment methods.
  4. When possible, inspect items in person before confirming the transaction.

If a seller requests upfront shipping fees—especially for a ‘free’ horse—be wary. And if a deal involves sending a deposit for a horse, verify the current owner’s identity through registries and ask for the seller’s driver’s license before parting with your money. Likewise, when trading tack online, be cautious. Scammers might delay shipments or may return items in a worse condition, claiming that’s how they received them.

Hidden Red Flags

Sometimes, unscrupulous sellers go to great lengths to deceive buyers. From using substances to alter a horse’s appearance to not disclosing common genetic diseases, scams can be intricate. Always consider getting a vet’s five-panel blood test, costing around $125, to reveal potential issues.

Aside from individual categories, the equestrian community also faces unique challenges like auction-ring schemes, counterfeit charities, and deceptive hay sellers. Using the BAEN mail links in our classifieds, it’s possible for scammers to send you email messages but the scammer cannot see your email address or save it to a mailing list. Website security is not the issue—these scammers are not hacking computer systems, they are manually browsing public web sites just like other legitimate visitors and clicking on email links. Always stay informed and vigilant.

Important Notice: Please do not mark messages from BAEN mail as spam when reporting scam or fraudulent activity. These messages originate from our server, not directly from the individual who may be attempting to scam you. Reporting these emails as spam could result in our IP address being blocked, affecting your ability to receive crucial email responses to your ads, as well as impacting other users on our platform.

Some Commonsense Advice

Even though you’ve posted a for-sale ad, you are under NO obligation to sell to anyone, no matter who they are or how much they offer. You are NO obligation to respond to an email or phone offer that makes you uncomfortable in any way. It’s YOUR item for sale on YOUR terms, and anyone who is put off by your legitimate efforts to protect yourself and your property can take a hike. Treat suspicious emails like spam and delete upon receipt without replying.

Your best protection is to insist upon cash paid in person. Do NOT accept cashier’s checks. Do not ship your horse or item until you’ve been paid in full and the money is deposited to your account. If you feel you must accept a check, insist that the issuing bank clear the check before the horse or item leaves your control (this can take 7-14 days, which is why the scammers pressure you to ship NOW). Don’t allow ANYONE to pressure you into a sale. Reduce your exposure to scams by dealing locally as much as possible. Learn more ways to protect yourself at https://www.ftc.gov/ and https://www.usa.gov/credit-reports

If you receive a suspected scam/spam message, forward the entire message to [email protected] along with your comments. We’ll add the sender to BAEN’s mail filter. You can then delete the original scam message without responding, just like you would any other unwanted email message.

If you’re a Scam Victim…

If you believe you are the victim of a scam,  report it to your local police immediately. 

Please see additional resources at Scam Victims United. 


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Are You an Easy Target? How to Avoid Equestrian-Related Internet Scams