Beware of This Horse-Dumping Scam

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A friend just forwarded me an ad from Craigslist that is a sorry illustration of a horse-dumping scam--one that I've been a victim of myself. Here's the ad, with the names changed:

"I am looking for Mario, who brought his horse Bert to my stable a month ago. He had his horse boarded in [neighboring state], but the stable closed down and he called and wanted a place to keep Bert. He dropped him off about 6 p.m. on a Friday night and was going to come the next day and pay the balance of the board on him. He left $100 but has not been back, and his phone numbers do not work. I cannot keep Bert here without being paid for his board, I need Mario to contact me ASAP."

I sure hope that Mario turns out to have been lying in a hospital with amnesia, and that there will be a soap-opera ending of him being reunited with his long-lost and beloved Bert.

But don't place any bets on it.

As I have learned from having been a victim, this is very likely the aftermath of a pre-meditated way of dumping a horse. Mario probably has no intentions of ever seeing Bert again. The cash he handed over was calculated to buy goodwill overnight, and was a pittance compared to what it'd cost to dispose of a horse most other ways.

Plus, nowadays, $100 won't even feed a horse well for a month. It's cheaper to hand someone a hundred bucks under false pretenses than to keep feeding the horse while looking for a legitimate next home for it.

Some people dump horses out in the desert, trusting Mother Nature to take care of them. Other people dump horses at stables, taking advantage of people's trust.

My scammer worked her deal like this:

* Responds to Yellow Pages ad we ran when we still boarded outside horses. (If you do ANY kind of boarding for people you don't know, you need to be all ears right about now.)

* Calls during a snowstorm to inquire about overnight stabling, as she was "on her way to [neighboring state] and didn't want to try going farther in the storm while towing two horses." We empathize [hard-luck story designed to tap into our kinder natures], tuck her two horses into stalls, get paid three nights' board in advance, in cash.

* An effusively grateful "Janie" [acting up a storm, it turns out] leaves us her business card [not really her business card, or her name, either, but then Mario's name probably ain't Mario], with cell number and name of local motel where she plans check in to weather out the storm. We accept this at face value ["if you can't trust horse people, who can you trust?"]?

* Janie never registers at the motel, all other contact info turns out to be false, and we never see or hear from her again. [We do eventually learn her real identity, thanks to help from a brand inspector--the one who helped us through the legal process of rehoming the two horses--but by then she was long gone in that neighboring state or beyond, and out of jurisdiction].

We think of Janie, not so fondly, as our thief of trust.

It is due directly to this episode that we ceased opening our barn, even overnight, to anyone we don't know.

Especially ones with sob stories.?