Fraudsters have been targeting vulnerable farmers on the Southern Tablelands, desperate for hay after the drought and bushfires, by taking deposits and then not delivering any fodder.
Strike Force Woden has been set up by NSW Police after they received multiple reports of a person advertising cheap hay on social media and then rorting farmers once they received deposits.
NSW Police Force State Rural Crime Coordinator Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside says a number of people have lost money as a result of the scheme.
“These are difficult times, and it is disgusting to think anyone would seek to take advantage of people who have already been through so much,” he said.
“I would encourage anyone buying supplies online to only deal with people and businesses that have proven to be genuine in the past.
“Where possible, it is best to only hand over money when the goods are in your possession.
“And of course, the age-old saying applies – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
Although farmers along the Southern Tablelands have been affected, the fraud has not been isolated to specific areas. Police have also received reports from the Mid North Coast, the Hunter Valley, the Hills, and the Oxley, Nepean, and Port Stephens areas.
NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliot said anyone who tries to take advantage of drought-affected farmers will be dealt with swiftly and severely.
“At a time when we are seeing unprecedented levels of drought affecting every corner of NSW, it is unthinkable that anyone would seek to exploit those who most need our support,” Mr Elliott said.
“This is a pathetic act and the Government will continue to back our police in their efforts to keep these online criminals away from communities struggling during these hard times.”
Detective Inspector Whiteside says it is important any victims come forward with information to support investigations.
“It is important not to be embarrassed. Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch people off guard,” he said.
“Our officers need as much information as possible in order to investigate these crimes thoroughly and find those responsible.”
If you have any information that might assist our investigators, please contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or through Crime Stoppers.