NASHVILLE — Scam artists are using a forged signature of Tennessee Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Carter Lawrence, warned Lawrence and Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti on Wednesday.
The scheme involves a listing on Facebook Marketplace for a nonexistent tractor for sale, officials said.
"I am shocked and angered that scammers would use my name in order to target our state's hard-working agricultural community," Lawrence said in a joint news release with Skrmetti issued by the Attorney General's Office. "If you are approached by someone about this so-called deal who claims to represent me or our department, do not send them any money and contact the Tennessee Attorney General's Office immediately."
The "seller" so far has used a generic woman's name and quickly directs buyers to contact Hartley Logistics. Hartley is an entity that claims to be based in Memphis with possession of the tractor.
In addition to inquiries about Hartley Logistics, the state has also received inquiries involving a shipping company, also out of Memphis, called Grimwood Shipping Inc., officials said.
The marketplace listing entices buyers to transfer money to a nonexistent escrow company that has an escrow agreement purportedly approved by Lawrence, according to Skrmetti's release.
As part of the scheme, Hartley Logistics asks buyers to provide their Social Security number, a photo of their driver's license and a current selfie as proof of identity.
Once the information is provided and the money is transferred, the scammer takes off with the funds, according to officials.
Fraudulent activity can be reported to the Attorney General's Office using the online consumer complaint form found at tn.gov/consumer.
"Online platforms can be great for connecting buyers and sellers, but consumers should watch out for deals that look too good to be true," Skrmetti said in the release. "And scammers should beware the very real consequences of selling fake tractors in Tennessee."
— Compiled by Andy Sher