Cancel OK

Impersonation fraud rising in the produce industry

bp fraud

Impersonation fraud has already been in the produce industry, but now we’re getting more reports from members who share their victim experiences to get the word out so others won’t fall prey to the same fraudulent acts. 

How prevalent is this? 

“The frequency of reported fraud events is not a common occurrence, but it’s been on the rise over the last several years and has been very damaging and disruptive to victims businesses,” says  Bill Zentner, Vice President, Ratings Service for Blue Book Services.

“The problem is, you just don’t know when fraud is going to strike, which makes it so important to have strong vetting procedures in place before it does.”

What’s impersonation fraud?

An individual who contacts a target and pretends to be someone else, typically a trusted individual or reputable organization, in order to deceive and defraud the unsuspecting victim. 

A case study

Blue Book recently received information from a Florida seller stating they were contacted via WhatsApp by a new buyer in Texas asking to purchase product. 

The seller sold a load to this supposed buyer but became suspicious of the individual when they immediately asked for more product.  The seller stated, “something felt off.” 

A common statement offered when sharing the victim experience. The suspicion resulted in the Florida seller calling the Blue Book listed phone number of the Texas buyer. The call quickly proved the situation to be fraudulent, when the “real” Texas buyer didn’t have any knowledge of the two transacting business. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), general impersonation fraud occurred 330,000 times in 2023. The number probably could be higher, because it’s not uncommon for fraud victims to stay silent and not tell their story. It shouldn’t be that way – kudos to anyone that reports fraud in produce, in an effort to establish a hyper vigilant trading community.    

The FTC also reports that impersonation fraud via a phone call is has been in decline, while email, texting and other electronic communication methods are all significantly up compared to data just four years ago. 

The following are a few noteworthy observations when looking deeper into this fraud case:

  • The perpetrator initiated contact via WhatsApp, asking to buy product and that he had a truck in Florida ready for pick up.
  • The email and phone number shared by the perpetrator was not the email and phone number of the Blue Book listed Texas buyer. 
  • Communications were largely electronic, requesting various tropical commodities.

Fraud is everywhere – be sure to request a credit application from potential new business relationships and thoroughly vet the request, which might include verifying identity.

What else should victim companies do about it? 

“The first step is to avoid becoming a victim, if at all possible,” Zentner says. “Fraud is deceptive and evolves with fraud mitigation efforts.  Companies need to require credit applications from potential new business and be thorough with due diligence by referencing Blue Book Online Services.

If you are a victim of fraud or suspect a situation to be one with poor intentions, contact the Blue Book to log your concern and contact legal authorities.

“If you become a victim, or think you were a target, share it with the Blue Book – it’s important to establish vigilance when fraud is active,” Zentner says.


Greg Johnson is Vice President of Media for Blue Book Services