Here’s a fraud scenario that recently occurred in Massachusetts, Florida and the Louisville, Ky., area: A customer purchases equipment from a dealer and pays with a check. The account is valid, but the check is returned because of insufficient funds. The equipment is pawned and the purchaser can’t be located.
This information was released by the sheriff’s office of the county I live in, Sedgwick County, Kan., through its Construction, Agriculture Livestock Information Network (CALIN). The network sends emails and text alerts regarding thefts and suspicious activities to its more than 450 members in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas.
I talked with Deputy Joel Blogref, who manages CALIN. To avoid copycat crimes, he declined to go into specifics about this situation, but does urge dealers to be cautious and report any thefts to the police. Then, share details of the theft or suspicious activity to CALIN to pass along to its members.
“If you catch on to fraudulent activity and are lucky enough to not become a victim, tell us what happened, so we can know if the crimes are spreading or not,” says Blogref. He says anyone can join CALIN, regardless of where they live. Current members include equipment dealers, farmers, ranchers, cooperatives, contractors and others.
Former Deputy Travis Clinesmith started the program in 2009. He is now a territory sales manager for Murphy Tractor & Equipment, a John Deere construction dealership based in Park City, Kan.
Travis Clinesmith is territory sales manager for Murphy Tractor & Equipment.
“I grew up on a farm and worked on a farm all through college. Living that lifestyle you see equipment get vandalized and stolen,” Clinesmith says. When he joined the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, he saw that theft information was being shared among policing agencies, but not with the public.
“There are just so many cops on the street, but there are an endless amount of farmers, ranchers, implement dealers and auctioneers,” Clinesmith says, who continues to work with Blogref and CALIN.
Now that he’s on the dealership side, Clinesmith can relate to the difficulties of serving customers and making a sale, while protecting the dealership.
“Use common sense. If something doesn’t feel right, check into it. Do your homework,” Clinesmith says. For instance, there is time between when a customer pays with a check and when they leave the lot with the equipment. Use that time to call the bank and verify the information. Watch for other suspicious details. For instance, maybe your dealership doesn’t advertise outside your local area, but someone from out-of-state comes in to buy a specific piece of equipment. Clinesmith says that’s an unusual situation and you should be cautious.
“There’s a fine line between friendship and trust and being conned,” says Blogref.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer’s website shares more information from CALIN regarding steps to protect your dealership including:
- Contacting your merchant services to verify odd credit card information.
- Holding equipment until you are satisfied payment will clear on out-of-town checks.
- Confirming delivery addresses.
- Testing security cameras to ensure customers can be clearly identified.
Spring is a busy time of meeting new customers and making sales. Take some time, though, to review your sales and security processes and keep your dealership fraud-free.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer