USDA officials are warning farmers in Iowa and several other states about fraudulent faxes being sent to individual farmers and businesses in the region.
Mike Sanders, chief administrative officer for the Farm Service Agency in Nebraska, says farmers everywhere should be on guard and certainly should not respond to the letters.
In what he calls a “filching” attempt, Sanders says, “A person or entity (was) representing himself as USDA and they were sending out fax messages to various producers in a four-state area, trying to obtain financial information from the producers.”
Sanders encourages farmers anywhere who got similar suspicious faxes to report them to their nearest FSA office. He’s seen one, in person.
“A producer did receive a fax message and they brought it in to our office,” he says. “From a cursory view, it appeared to be a fictitious memo and a request for information. We are forwarding those requests that we receive to our office of general counsel and the office of inspector general for follow-up.”
The letters bear the USDA logo and seal and are signed by an individual identified as “Frank Rutenberg” using a title of Senior Procurement Officer. Sanders says the letter is an effort to rip off farmers.
“There’s a cover memo titled, Authorization to Release Financial Information,” Sanders says. “Basically, it’s a blank form where the producer is to record their business name and what they’re doing business as. They’re asking for bank names, branches, account numbers and tax IDs.”
The faxes were received so far in: Nebraska, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. As yet, none were reported in Iowa but producers nationwide are being put on alert.