( USDA )

Hundreds of produce operators received scam emails in mid-August purporting to seek payment for U.S. Department of Agriculture Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act license renewals.

The e-mail threatened operators with suspension if payment was not made.

Jonathon Steedley, customer success specialist for The Packer’s Produce Market Guide, said he received a report of the scam scheme from a produce distributor on Aug. 16. Steedley passed on that report to USDA’s PACA National License Center.

At the center, USDA representative Raymond Dutch said produce operators were calling in all morning Aug. 16 asking about the bogus e-mail.

“(The scammers) must know that everybody pays for their license (annually) and sent an e-mail out to try to get people to send money to them,” he said Aug. 16. The USDA has received more than 100 calls asking about the scam, he told The Packer.

“It is good that people call so we can inform them, and they won’t open it, so that scammer won’t get their information,” he said.
Dutch said produce operators should not send money based on an e-mail demand for immediate PACA license payment.

Dutch said the USDA would call PACA licensees on the phone and give operators 30 days notice if a license was in danger of suspension because of non-payment of license fees.

The USDA’s National License Center can be reached at 800-495-7222 or at PACALicense@ams.usda.gov.