Skip to main content

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.