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Farm Advisory April 1996

Phony Pesticides and Other Telephone Scams

The planting season is upon Iowa farmers. Unfortunately, this promising time almost always brings a rash of telemarketing scams involving phony pesticides and other products. Con-artists know that farmers are buying inputs: It's prime time for "rip-offs."

The typical scam works like this:

A farmer receives a call from an out-of-state company promising a fantastic deal on a pesticide. "It works just as well as the name-brands," the caller promises, "and we'll throw in some free gloves if you place a big order today." The telephone solicitor pressures the farmer to make a snap-decision in order to lock in the extraordinary price.

That kind of solicitation should ring all kinds of warning bells: an unex- pected out-of-state call . . . claims that the product is "just as good as such-and-such" . . . free gifts . . . high pressure to buy right now . . . unbelievably low prices . . . demand for immediate payment by credit card or cashier's check.

Those all are sure signs of a con-artist at work. Just hang up!

When the product is delivered (if it ever is delivered), the farmer realizes why the pesticide could be sold at such a great price. The product usually contains about 1% weed killer and 99% inert ingredients such as water or even petroleum oil. So- called "guarantees" turn out to be worthless, too. The farmer has simply been "conned."

The Attorney General's Farm Division is working hard to put these con-artists out of business in Iowa and get farmers' money back. We have filed lawsuits against alleged scams. But the only true protection is for farmers themselves to avoid being cheated in the first place. Remember these tips:

  • Try to deal with local dealers and dealers you know are reputable and reliable.
  • Be careful of unsolicited calls offering so-called fantastic bargains. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn't true!
  • Always confirm if a product is legitimate before you buy. Insist on receiving all claims and guarantees in writing, in advance -- and check them out.

If you have been cheated by a fraudulent scheme in the sale of farm products, then please:


Iowa Attorney General's Farm Division
Lucas Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Phone: 515/281-3389
Fax: 515/242-6072
Email: farm@ag.state.ia.us