Farmers have been warned to remain vigilant to the heightened threat of fraudulent scams during the coronavirus pandemic.
The advice follows reports of suspicious websites being set up to advertise the sale of farm vehicles and machinery which do not exist, as cybercriminals increasingly target small and medium-sized businesses, including farms.
NFU Cymru president Aled Jones said: “Given the restrictions currently in place as a result of Covid-19, many farmers may be looking online to purchase good and ‘big ticket’ items they would usually travel to inspect in person.
“At a time when some farmers’ buying habits may change to adapt to the current situation, it is very important to stress we should all be wary of the fact that, unfortunately, there are unscrupulous individuals out there who are targeting farmers through criminal and fraudulent activity.”
According to the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), there were an estimated 3.8 million incidents of fraud in the year ending March 2019, but figures for the total cost of such crimes to the agricultural sector are currently unavailable.
However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said people were more likely to fall victim to fraud or cyber offences than any other crime, and cases where individual farmers have been swindled out of tens of thousands of pounds have become increasingly common.
Just last year, beef farmer Douglas Ledger was scammed out of £10,800 in a tractor ad fraud.
But Mr Jones highlighted there were numerous ways in which farmers could protect themselves from falling victim to fraud.
Mr Jones added: “I would encourage all farmers to heed the advice being given around online scams and exercise caution before committing online purchases.”
Sources of help and advice
Cases of fraud should be reported to Action Fraud using its online reporting tool or by telephone on 0300 123 2040.
The Government’s Cyber Essentials website is an online resource that gives simple advice to help secure your systems and devices.