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Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association officials warn that as the concern over COVID-19 grows, thefts and scams targeting cattlemen are on the rise.

“Economic and industry distress always increases the number of desperate people that will take fraudulent, dishonorable and criminal actions,” said Scott Williamson, executive director of law enforcement.

He said it’s especially important to be careful when buying or selling over the internet.

“You may feel like you need to get in a hurry to sell some cattle before it gets worse or get in a hurry to buy while the prices are low,” Williamson said. “But please slow down and be prudent, because con men and thieves are taking advantage of this situation.”

Henderson County AgriLife Extension Agent Spencer Perkins said the established cattle operations in the county see the cattle in person or go through a trusted source.

The Athens Commission Company is still in operation and plans to continue its regular schedule.

Last Friday 49 buyers came out and bought 196 head.

"They issued a statement saying they are an essential business," Perkins said. "They are taking lots of precautions to keep it safe."

A post on the Commission Company Facebook Page explains:

“Sale barns will not be considered ‘social’ for the purpose of the executive order – so business as usual. That said: they absolutely must observe CDC guidelines for social distancing."

According to the Cattle Raisers, Williamson received a call last week from a cattleman had purchased a truckload of cows represented as one thing, but when they arrived, they were another.

“This gets especially dangerous because your perception or agreements over the phone do not likely predicate a criminal charge or investigation,” Williamson said.

The Association has some guidelines to avoid being a victim of fraud

• Verify the person you are attempting to do business with a trusted source.

• When selling items consider payment options such as an escrow service or online payment system.

• Never accept a check or cashier’s check for more than the value of the sale.

• Confirm checks are valid by contacting your bank or the issuing bank.

• When buying items never issue payment until the items are received unless you have complete trust in the seller.

• Always inspect and document livestock or items before taking delivery, and remember, you have the right to refuse delivery.

• If you believe you are a victim of a bait and switch purchase, act quickly. The more time that lapses, the more it appears you were initially agreeable to the transaction and the ability to remedy the problem erodes.

“Cattle raisers have weathered a lot of storms over the years, and we’ll weather this one, too,” Williamson said. “But in the meantime, be extra careful.”

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