Farmers are being warned to be extremely wary of any suspicious calls, texts or emails, as fraudsters target the agricultural sector when EU grant payments begin to arrive in bank accounts this month.
From December, farmers start to receive large funds through the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), the European Union’s main rural payments scheme.
Information about the payments, including the recipients’ names and the amount paid, is publicly available, meaning criminals are able to target directly victims and make their approaches appear more convincing.
The scam communications will typically claim that fraud has been detected on the farmer’s bank account and that urgent action is required to safeguard funds. The victim is then persuaded to divulge personal or financial information, or even to transfer money directly into a so-called ‘safe account’.
The warning comes from the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a police unit with a national remit, formed as a partnership between Financial Fraud Action UK, the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police together with the Home Office.
With some grants worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, in past years fraudsters have stolen significant amounts of money from their victims. As well as farmers, other organisations which use farm land also receive BPS funds.
Chief Inspector Nick Hunter, North Yorkshire Police lead for rural crime, said:
Criminals are well aware of when these annual payments start to arrive and will look for any opportunity to defraud their victims.
It is vital that farmers, and other recipients of the payment, are alert to these scams and are very wary of any phone calls, texts or emails out of the blue asking for personal or financial information, or to transfer money to another account.
Tony Blake, DCPCU Senior Fraud Prevention Officer, said:
If you receive a suspicious call or message, hang up the phone and do not reply directly. Instead, wait five minutes and ring your bank to alert them to the scam, using a phone number that you trust – such as the one from the official website.
Advice on how to avoid this type of scam
Be wary of:
- Any calls, texts or emails purporting to be from your bank, the police, a Government body or other organisation asking for personal or financial details, or for you to transfer money.
- Cold callers who suggest you hang up the phone and call them back. Fraudsters can keep your phone line open by not putting down the receiver at their end.
- Any request to check that the number showing on your telephone display matches an organisation’s registered telephone number. The display cannot be trusted, as the number showing can be altered by the caller.
- You will never be asked for your 4 digit PIN or your online banking password, or for you to transfer money to a new account for “fraud reasons”.
- If you receive a suspicious call, hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line, or where possible use a different phone line, then call your bank or card issuer on their advertised number to report the fraud.
Never disclose your:
- Four digit card PIN to anyone, including the bank or police.
- Your password or online banking codes.
- Personal details unless you are certain you know who you are talking to. People are not always who they say they are.