3 Common Scams All Hunters Should Be Wary Of

   10.19.15

If it sounds too good to be true, it often is. This piece of wisdom is just as applicable to hunting as it is to everything else. Sportsmen and women may not get a lot of emails from Nigerian princes or sketchy pyramid schemes, but there are a number of scams geared directly towards hunters. Due to the nature of hunting, these scams can become downright dangerous.

Have you encounter any of these before? Let us know in the comments below.

1. The hunting lease scam

You’re browsing online and you find an ad for 700-acre property in prime deer hunting country. It comes with a complete description of the land, detailed photographs and maps, and everything else to make you fall heads-over-heels in love with it. The best part? You pay only a pittance for leasing it during deer season. Wow, what a bargain right?

Don’t be so sure.

Just last summer, Jenks City Police in Oklahoma arrested a woman for allegedly selling hunting leases for land she didn’t own. The scam is an easy one: put up an ad for a hunting lease at an impossibly good deal, take your prospective buyers to the land and show them around, collect the deposit in cash, and then abscond with the money. What’s left is a frustrating situation for both the hunters and the real landowner.

Fortunately for the hunters in Oklahoma, the woman was caught before she could continue the fraud any longer.

“It could happen to anyone,” Dean Anderson, a listing agent for the company that actually owned the land, told Tulsa World. “If if you’re unsure at all you should always verify the land ownership.”

Anderson was first informed of the scam when two hunters approached him to inquire about a 500-acre property on the North Canadian River. The scam artists failed to remove the company logo from pictures of the property, so it was fairly easy to track it down. Anderson immediately recognized it as fraud, and worked with law enforcement to set up a sting to catch the woman in the act. Once cash was exchanged, police moved in and slapped on the handcuffs.

The worst thing is that these scams are not uncommon and victimize both the buyers and land owners. Always take the extra step to do some research beforehand—it’ll save you more than just money in the end.

2. The online gun-sale scam

It’s plenty easy to be swindled out of your hard-earned money at a gun show or shop, but it’s much easier online (and more profitable and more safe for the swindler). Gun-sale scams are among the most common scams for hunters and gun owners, and to their credit, online markets are doing their best to crack down on con artists.

One common variation of the gun-sale scam is to pose under the name of legitimate online firearm dealer and run ads under their name. When contacted by prospective buyers, the scam artist pretends to be the retailer and conducts “business” as usual. Once payment is received, however, the swindler disappears into the outer reaches of the internet while the buyer frantically searches for information about their purchase. More often than not, they eventually contact the real retailer and are told that no such order was received.

There are dozens of variations on this scam but the principle remains the same: you pay for a gun that never arrives. Sellers are not safe, either. There are plenty of scammers out there that target gun sellers and try to get a free gun, which in turn they sell themselves.

Losing thousands of dollars this way can be devastating, but easily avoided. As always, doing a bit of research on the seller can save you a lot of frustration later on. Be sure to confirm FFLs, speak with the seller over the phone, check their sale history if they have any, and if they have a legitimate business, always call their listed number rather than any you find from an email or forum post.

The method of payment is also useful in tracking the scam artist down or simply recovering your money. Avoid wire service payments and other methods that make it difficult for you to get your cash back. Credit cards and checks from accounts with fraud protection are a good choice, and some services offer purchase protection.

You can check FFLs easily with the ATF’s FFL eZ Check System here.

3. Fraudulent game ranches and deceptive guides

Hunters swear by their guides, and when you’re in an unfamiliar place, the proper guide can be absolutely vital. That being said, some services are not above stooping to unethical practices. Worst of all, these practices are sometimes legal.

One common way for game ranches or guide services to make money is to run “free” guided hunt sweepstakes. You suddenly get a call or an email and are notified that you’ve won a free hunting trip with a certain company, yet you can’t remember registering for the contest. Still, it’s pretty exciting and you are eager to take advantage of the opportunity. At least, before you’re notified of all the additional charges that show up after you arrive.

Guide fees that have to be paid in cash, gratuity for the staff, food and lodging, fees for non-hunters tagging along, cleaning and prep fees, etc. That’s not even including your basic non-resident hunting license. All in all, you suddenly find yourself paying hand-over-fist for loads of extra fees. So much for a “free” hunt.

Keep in mind that this is legal.

On the other hand, there are illegal scams, such as false advertising. Imagine reading an ad for a 4,000-acre hunting ranch filled with wildlife, a fully staffed guide service, and loads of amenities. Then you arrive to find that the “ranch” is little more than 300 acres, has no guides, and hunters are herded together in dangerously-close proximity. In many states, this violates trade practice laws and can be subject to penalties.

That said, the vast majority of ranches and guide services conduct business in an ethical and legal manner. They are usually the first to speak out against predatory practices, and often do a good job policing themselves. One good way to check out a company’s reputation is to browse consumer reviews. If the majority of customers recommend against going with that company, there is usually a good reason.

What other hunter-targeted scams have you encountered?

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