Avoid Goat Scams
How can you be sure you are working with a legitimate seller?
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Goat scams are happening more and more frequently and are so very disheartening. You fall in love with the cutest baby goat picture and want to make it yours. The requested deposit is paid and you plan to collect your baby. Then you send messages only to find you are blocked by the seller or drive hundreds of miles to a false address. You’ve been scammed. Not only did you lose money, but even worse … there is no baby goat.
Of course, if the seller is local, the best way is to visit them and see the goats in person. If you don’t take the goat home with you, it would be wise to write a contract for the anticipated sale, especially if you made a deposit. Take a picture of the goat with the contract or describe the identifying features of the goat in the contract to ensure that you get the same goat at pick up.
Often, distance makes it difficult to visit in person, but there are other ways to verify a seller.
Look at their online presence. Are they really present? Ideally, they have a business profile or website showing pictures of their goats and set up over time and people who regularly interact with them. If they do not have business profiles, check their personal profile. This can be challenging, as not everyone feels comfortable with a public personal profile. Does the personal profile name match the navigation name in the web address bar? Allow for maiden names to change — but many scammers do not even have similar profile names. Does the profile show them interacting with their goats? Goat people generally can’t help but share lots of goat pictures (unless they have a business profile for them).
On social media, be cautious of new accounts, and do look at the profile’s friends list. You might also check to see which groups this person is in, but don’t stop there. A scammer may be in several goat groups — use the group search function to see what they are posting. Are they interacting in the group or only posting ads? If there is no interaction outside of sales listings, this could be a red flag.
Check the breed standards. Some scam posts identify the goat as the wrong breed. If the goat is purebred, check breed associations to see if the seller is a member.
A hallmark of scams is a listing picture that is stolen. Vanessa Eggert of Noble Nomad Mountain Ranch in Dan, Virginia, raised goats for 11 years. Only in the last year does she recall seeing these kinds of scam posts. She is a member of several goat groups and happened across her pictures while scrolling. “There is nothing like seeing pictures of your farm and your goats being used in a scam to rip people off. They steal our time and erode our trust, and there is nothing more important.” To combat the problem, she took a picture of the post and reposted it, alerting others to the scam. “The only way to stop it is to be diligent and call it out.”
She went a step further and reported it to Facebook, who responded that there was no violation. Understanding this, legitimate sellers should be willing to offer more pictures than the one featured in the ad, and with the capability of today’s phones, even a quick video. Do not be afraid to ask. “Scammers are lazy. They won’t put in the effort; most breeders will.”
To prevent your pictures from being used, you can watermark them with your name or your ranch name.
Are there other verified buyers that can give a reference? If it is a new breeder, perhaps the breeder from whom they purchased their foundation stock can offer a reference. Many people with goats provide their own veterinary care, but asking for a veterinary reference is also a reasonable request. On our ranch, we rarely see veterinarians except to issue health certificates for goats traveling out of state. Even so, the veterinarians know us, and they know our animals. A seller must authorize the veterinarian to share information, or privacy law will not allow the veterinarian to discuss the animals they treat. Veterinarians are much easier to verify than personal references as they have public directory listings.
We go a step further and offer buyers a list of veterinarians and transport companies that have worked with us, especially since we will never meet many of our buyers in person. They purchase their animals and have them shipped. They hire a licensed veterinarian to do a veterinary inspection of the goat they are purchasing, and they also hire a transport company. We are happy to work with any transporters, but do be aware: transporting is another scamming opportunity. You will want to verify transporters just as you do sellers, and be certain that you have a contract in place and they are insured to cover loss or injury to your animal.
Many scammers do not know goat lingo or have misspelled words. One poses as a “Vetenary seurgent.” While this is not always a sign of a scammer, it is another red flag. It could be someone new to goats or speaking English as a second language. Ask questions. If they represent themselves as a breeder but do not know goats, continue to seek verification. You might also consider a telephone conversation as a means of verification beyond email or messages.
Do not send a deposit until you have verified the seller. Requesting a deposit is not necessarily a sign of a scam. Many sellers require deposits to hold goats or reserve goats from breedings but do not pressure buyers into sales.
Sellers are also subject to scammers and no-shows, so requiring a deposit helps them to reduce the number of scammers they deal with. We request deposits via personal check to our ranch address rather than an online payment to an email address.
It may seem inconvenient in the digital world, but it is far more traceable for the buyer. Most scammers are offshore and cannot be tracked for prosecution; you can’t send the police to an email, nor will you pick a goat up at an email address. Real addresses can also be mapped and viewed on satellite applications.
If you choose a payment application, know their refund policies. Many have an exception for livestock. Some will only flag the account with a warning.
Shawna Bentz of Bentz Family Farmstead in Ohio started with goats just over a year ago. After having been scammed — twice — and reporting the scams with no resolution, she decided to take action. She created the “Don’t Get Scammed” Facebook group with a scam patrol logo. She maintains a known scammers list that some page administrators post and use, but not all. People can report known scammers, with evidence, to be shared in the group — or suspected scammers, which she then tests. She says many scammers are vague in their posts and do not offer information other than “message me.” They often check your profile to choose a location near you. She suggests having another person inquire from a different state, and their location will change.
If you still have doubts, “Message a stupid question,” suggests Shawna, “Make something up. I’ve said I only want goats with the dominant speckled gene. Turns out, their goats have it — even though it doesn’t exist. Scammers will say anything you want to hear.”
I was astounded by the number of goats scams her group has identified. You’ll quickly learn to recognize them. Unfortunately, as they lose effectiveness, scammers resort to new tactics. Many scammers stopped posting ads and instead are responding to wanted posts
If you feel that something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts. As hard as it is to be patient and prudent about making your goat purchase, it is worth it to ensure a happy homecoming rather than a heartbreaking loss.
Karen Kopf and her husband Dale own Kopf Canyon Ranch in Troy, Idaho. They enjoy “goating” together and helping others goat. They raise Kiko primarily, but are experimenting with crosses for their new favorite goating experience: pack goats! You can learn more about them at Kopf Canyon Ranch on Facebook or kikogoats.org
Originally published in the May/June 2022 Goat Journal and is vetted for accuracy.