Consumer Advisory: MDARD Reminds Animal Trainers, Owners to be Vigilant when Accepting New Clients

Scammers targeting horse trainers, others with promises of new animals that never arrive

LANSING, MI – The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is urging horse trainers, horse owners, and others in the livestock industry to be cautious when accepting new clients or purchasing new animals. Scammers are posing as new clients who want to bring in their horses to be trained by local trainers, but their vehicle breaks down when transporting the animal, and the requests for money begin.

MDARD is currently assisting the Michigan State Police with a case in Otsego County where scammers were targeting horse trainers, horse owners, and others connected to the horse industry who are at least 60 years old and use social media to manage their business.

“MDARD routinely works with the Michigan State Police and local law enforcement to provide specialized guidance and advice related to animal and public health,” said Dr. Nora Wineland, State Veterinarian. “Our Animal Industry Division’s Compliance Investigative Unit is dedicated to investigating issues related to the movement of animals throughout the state to protect animal and public health. At MDARD, we will continue to look out for Michiganders and their animals.”

Scammers reach out to local horse trainers via text or social media direct message claiming to have gotten the trainer’s information from another known contact in the trainer’s social media network. After a deal is made to transport the horse for training, the scammers will again contact the trainer to explain how their vehicle has broken down and they need money to make repairs and continue traveling.

The scammers will then request the money be given to them in the form of a gift card, having the numbers on the card read or sent directly to them. If a trainer refuses to make this transaction, scammers will threaten to contact the trainer’s other clients and drive away their business or harass the trainer in other ways.

MDARD continues to assist the Michigan State Police, who is the lead agency for scam investigations, on this case. The agencies are encouraging those working in a livestock-related business to be mindful of the following warning signs when beginning to interact with new clients:

  • Using English inaccurately in written messages.
  • Being evasive or combative when asked about more specific details.
  • Providing excuses for why certain deadlines or requests will not be met; the excuses usually sound reasonable.
  • Avoiding giving their full name; preferring to use their first name only.
  • Trying to change a decision through emotional manipulation or threats.
  • Requesting to use gift cards as a form of payment.

If you think you may have been contacted or victimized by one of these scammers, please contact your local police department. If you think you have provided a payment to a scammer, please contact your banking institution immediately.

For more information on how to identify and protect yourself from scams, please visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Trainers, Agents Beware: Telephone Con Artist Is At It Again



Trainers and bloodstock agents in California, New York and states in the Midwest are being targeted by a telephone con artist who falsely claims to represent a wealthy international businessman interested in retaining them to buy horses on his behalf.

The scam is almost identical to the one reported in the Paulick Report in August 2016. In recent weeks, trainers and bloodstock agents in California, Kentucky and Arkansas confirmed they have been contacted by the individual. The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association posted what it called a “scam alert” on its Facebook page.

The caller, who familiarizes himself with the trainer or bloodstock agent’s successes, claims to represent a wealthy businessman or member of the royal family in Abu Dhabi or Brunei (in 2016, the scam involved someone from India purportedly interested in buying horses). The wealthy individual cited in each case is real but is completely unaware their name is being used in an attempted con.

The caller, who uses different names and spoofs different telephone caller ID numbers, says the businessman would like to set up a call with the trainer or agent to discuss the purchase of specific horses, either in training or public auction. In some cases the call has taken place with a second individual pretending to be the prospective horse buyer, who also shows some knowledge of the trainer or agent’s career and successes.

The follow-up from the original caller specifies that the trainer or agent set up encrypted communications software because of privacy concerns with the buyer. While some would-be victims expressed worry that the communications network would have hacked into their computers and stolen sensitive information, the scam seems more likely to revolve around the $800 to $1,000 the original caller said would need to be wired to a Wells Fargo bank account to purchase the software.

As one trainer said, “That’s a lot of work for someone to steal $1,000.”