With all the technology available today it’s easier than ever to find exactly what you’re looking for. Just about anything you want to buy has a group dedicated to that item. Dairy goats are no exception and scammers have quickly caught on to just how much people love these flashy, cute little goats. As an admin of a few different Facebook groups including West Texas Farm Animals & Livestock and West Texas Dairy Goat Association, I decline my fair share of scammers trying to join the group and/or post scams and with that I’ve learned what to look for in spotting them. Here are a few tips and tricks to spot a scammer but also what you can do as a seller to prove you’re not one!
Discliamer: this is not a complete “How To: Be a Good Buyer and Seller.” That’s a conversation for another day.
What to look for as a buyer
I’m going to focus on goats but these tips can be used when looking at anything.
1. Look at their Profile
I put this as #1 because it’s just about the easiest way to spot a scammer and the profile should always be checked, even if the ad looks legit. Things to look for are:
- Posts and the timestamps
- Time they joined Facebook
When looking at pictures, you want to look at all of them. The profile picture and cover photos are usually either random stock images of flowers, landscapes, flags, animals, etc or something like Bible scriptures or random quotes that they use to establish a good person persona. If they actually have pictures of people, they usually have stolen these images from a real persons profile, this makes it a little harder to pin them as a scammer. Take a look at their photo albums too, if they only have a few pictures posted, be a little suspicious. This can sometimes be due to their privacy settings so this isn’t a fool proof way. Now let’s look at posts and time stamps.
Scroll through the profile! If there’s nothing there but the profile and cover photos and the date they joined Facebook… be cautious. Again, this can be due to privacy settings so keep looking! Look at time stamps! You can actually change the date that shows on certain posts and this can make it look like a profile is older than it actually is. Scammers will post several things then change the time stamp to make it look like they’ve been posting over several months or even years. BUT when this is done, a tiny clock icon will show up next to that timestamp. This only shows up of it has been tampered with! Take a look at the photo below.
Next, look at the time they joined the group or Facebook. The funny thing is, most scammers join a group then immediately try to make a post in that group. No time to waste! I always see this as a red flag, but again, keep looking. Look at the time they joined Facebook. It’s also usually very close to the date they are trying to make the post, though it might be a few months old. But beware, even a few months old is a little suspicious unless they are 15yro!
Now one of the biggest giveaways is their friends list! A list full of people from Nigeria or Pakistan? Uhmmm scam. Move on. If you’re unable to see a friends list, they most likely have this set to private. A good way to see who they have as friends is to look at who has liked the pictures they do have posted! A bunch of foreign people like their photos? Move on!
2. Evaluate the ad
Remember, scammers can get crafty, but usually they give themselves away pretty quickly.
- Pictures they use
- Wording/language issues
- Vague description
Pictures used in the ad are usually super cute and colorful kids. But take a look at the backgrounds. Is one in a beautiful green grassy field, one in the mountains, and one surrounded by trees? Red flag! Does one show metal fencing while another one shows pretty white panel fencing? Red flag. Is one taken in winter and the other in summer? Red flag. Once you see enough of these ads, the pictures are the first giveaway.
The ad it’s self is usually either very vague or filled with random/misspelt/misused words. “Billy for sell. Mom world champion. Pm me” Never heard of a world champion dairy goat before! Probably because it’s not a thing. “Buck and doe up for discussion. PM me.” Or even just “Available. PM me.” Here’s a few examples, we will start with Miss Nancy Linda as a perfect example. Vague ad. Photos of cute kids that don’t match. Her profile picture is an inspirational quote. the rest of her profile was nearly completely blank. Nice try Miss Nancy!
Weird….. that ad sounds so familiar… oh it reminds me of Miss Maria Remi!
Here’s another example. Cindy Sabrina posts a vague ad. Cute pictures. She answers all comments with “pm me”. When you go to her page, she has a meme for a profile picture, a big group photo as her cover, and almost 5,000 foreign friends. A quick Facebook search brings up several reports of her scamming people. Always look them up!
If all else seems legit enough that you’d like to try to contact them, there’s a few things to look for or do!
- Pushy and ask for deposit or your location right away
- Unable to carry a conversation
- Cant provide proof of ownership in form of documents, details, and references
- Only offer to ship.
Scammers don't have time to play around, they're too busy scammin! So a request for a deposit is usually immediate after the initial message. They also ask for your location, I’m assuming this is so they can say they live somewhere close to you. They can sometimes be extremely pushy if you try to ask additional questions. This is usually followed by “PayPal friends and family. Cash app, or Venmo.” These apps don’t offer refunds if money is sent to friends. However, some sellers have also been scammed with PayPal goods and services when buyers pay, pick up the animal/item, then make a claim they did not get the item and they are refunded the money. So both sellers and buyers should be cautious with PayPal!
To go along with being pushy when you ask questions, these scammers are usually unable to carry on a basic conversation about goats. Ask open ended questions for them to fill in the blanks, What association are they registered with? What is their parent registered names? If the animal is advertised as unregistered you can try what vaccines have they had? I don’t recommend trick questions… if the seller is legit, asking “have they had their distemper vaccination yet?” Might land you on the blocked list before you can even blink!
On that same note, they most likely won’t be able to provide concrete info they actually own the animal. Pictures of papers will be in a different name or cut off completely, they won’t provide additional requested pictures of the animal, can’t provide a correct adga ID. All this can be a little harder when dealing with grade animals. In that case, ask for a vet reference and follow up with a call to the vet.
A new scam is to offer to ship the animal, for a fee of course, and no option for you to pick up the animal. Or some variant of that ploy. This one’s pretty straightforward, don’t fall for it.
So what else can you do?
Ask questions, ask for proof, and educate yourself on how to use the ADGA and ADGA Genetics websites. Look up the animals, their tattoo numbers, the provided ADGA ID, dig on Facebook, and always, always look up their name/farm to see if anything pops up!
NOTE: Do not be rude to sellers who request a deposit if you expect them to hold an animal for you.
I see it mentioned too many times that asking for a deposit is a huge red flag. Most sellers will not hold an animal for you for free. Deposits are used as a security measure if you back out of the sale and the seller misses out on other sale opportunities. Some sellers spend hours curating complete and accurate ads on their websites, taking and posting hundreds of pictures, sharing all over Facebook, and answering hundreds of questions. Having to redo all that after marking an animal sold is a real bummer to put it kindly. Do your homework and put down a deposit, or take the chance that the animal sells before you can go look at it the next week.
So how can you as a seller do your best to ensure your customers are safe?
This one’s pretty straight forward. Put in the time to establish who you are and don’t be offended when potential buyers ask you for proof! All these things go hand in hand but I’ll touch on them all.
- Build a Facebook page
- Build a website
- Be transparent
- Have a simple conversation
Facebook pages are the #1 way to ease your buyers. Keep it up to date so that there’s a long history of you online. Post photos and videos of your animals NOT just sale ads. Ask buyers to leave reviews on your page!
Websites are also extremely helpful. Photos and information on the animals, you, and your farm will give the buyers a lot to go off of. Now, I’m not saying to put your address, maiden name, or childrens birthdates on there! Lol but listing a location, phone number, email, a little bit about you and your farm will go a long way.
With Facebook, websites, and private messages I highly recommend being as transparent as you can while protecting yourself. What do I mean by that? Doing things like cropping the name and owner info out of pictures of papers makes it look like your hiding something. If you own the goat and your name is on the papers, post the full picture. You can always digitally cross out any personal information like addresses or phone numbers before posting or sending. Watermarking all your photos will prevent them from being used by a scammer and further protect you. Take the time to answer customers questions and do your best to provide info if they ask, WITHIN REASON. No one should expect you to take 500 pictures of one animal or provide every milk test result for the last 5 years.
And last but not least, just have a simple conversation with your buyers. Ask them if they already own goats, how long they have owned goats, what their goals for their herd are, etc.. It goes a long way!