Cattle rustling becoming more common amid coronavirus pandemic


Cattle thefts are on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

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

Now more than ever it is important to be diligent when buying or selling over the internet and to not make decisions out of panic or desperation.

“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.”

One cattleman has already reported a tip to the TSCRA. He purchased a truckload of cows, wired the money and when they arrived, the cows were not what was represented. Williamson says this especially dangerous because agreements or perception over the phone do not typically constitute a criminal investigation.

Here are Williamson’s tips for avoiding 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.

Here are Williamson’s tips for avoiding theft:

• Display TSCRA member sign on gates and entrances. It is a proven deterrent.
• Lock gates.
• Brand cattle and horses. Make sure the brand is recorded with the county clerk.
• Put driver’s license number on all saddles, tack and equipment.
• Videotape horses and tack. Keep complete and accurate descriptions on file. Establish an organized, easy-to-find proof of ownership file to save valuable time in recovery process.
• Count cattle regularly.
• Don’t establish a routine when feeding. Vary the times you feed.
• Be cautious about who gets keys and combinations.
• If possible, park trailers and equipment where they are out of view from the roadway.
• Keep tack rooms and saddle compartments on trailers locked.
• Don’t feed in pens.
• Participate in neighborhood crime watch programs.
• Don’t build pens close to a roadway.
• Never leave keys in tractors or other equipment.

“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.”