Calls have been made to ensure vigilance when buying online after at least two farmers were recently scammed. Among the victims are the well-known Merino stud breeder Eddie Prinsloo who was bamboozled in a R4.9 million transaction.
Prinsloo is the owner of the Heuningkrans farm in Smithfield in the Free State. He is known as a land reform champion after giving seven workers title deeds in his Donkerhoek project.
He was scammed after two men, Vitalis Tasara (34) and Tsako Baloyi (40), reached out to him. They allegedly claimed to be from a bank which worked with farmers.
Following an agreement, the elderly farmer delivered 800 sheep to Louis Trichardt in Limpopo. When no money was deposited into his bank account for the delivery he made, Prinsloo grew suspicious.
He alerted the police after the suspects weren’t available on their phones. The bank also confirmed that they had no dealings with him.
Tasara and Baloyi have since been arrested. With the help of the Wepener police, 561 sheep have since been recovered, says police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele. The two suspects will appear in the Smithfield’s magistrates’ court today on charges of fraud and stock theft.
According the latest available crime statistics, stock theft decreases in all provinces except for the Northern Cape. Across the country, more than 26 000 sheep and 14 000 cattle were stolen.
Meanwhile farmers in the poultry industry are also being targeted by opportunists. Hillary Pechana and his wife, Siphesihle Kwetana, were almost scammed out of R52 075.
The co-owners of Siphe Development and Capacitation Agency tell Food For Mzansi they recently visited crooks on a “suspicious site”. They were looking to purchase 3 000 hens and 465 roosters to diversify their farming operation.
The alleged scammers said they represented Calvery Poultry Farm in Bloemfontein, a four-hour drive for Pechana and his wife.
Pechana initially made a WhatsApp enquiry asking for a quotation. A “sales representative”, who identified himself as “Mr Larry”, sent the quotation via WhatsApp. Pechana, instead, asked for a more formal quotation to be sent.
He says, “I accepted his quote and told him that I would visit their farm. My wife wasn’t sure that we could trust the guy.”
When Pechana requested to visit their operation, the alleged scammer was quick to make up an excuse.
“He told me that they had just returned back from two weeks in quarantine and that management insisted no clients visit the farm. The quotation had an address on, so I asked a friend who lived 19 minutes away to go check it out.”
Pechana’s friend could not find the address listed on the quotation. The transaction was then cancelled and Pechana says he never heard from them again.
‘If it’s too good to be true…’
Christopher Mason, manager: sustainability and operations at the South African Poultry Association (SAPA), pleads with farmers to be cautious. Instead of faling prey to online transactions, he wants them to rather contact the police for a suppliers’ list, or to do a verification check of the supplier.
“If a farmer has been scammed, they should report it to their bank and lay a charge at the police,” he says.
A simple location search on Google Maps can also provide potentially money-saving information. “For example, if one checks a supplier’s address on Google Maps and the farm address is in the middle of a built-up area, logic dictates that it is a scam company.”
Furthermore, websites displaying logos of SAPA and government could be a clear indication of scam sites. “If the deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” Mason says.