Farmers are being warned to be wary of fraudsters who will specifically target the agricultural sector as Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments begin to arrive in bank accounts this month.
Information about the payments, including the recipients’ names and the amount paid, is publically 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’.
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 bodies which use farm land also receive BPS funds.
Rural organisations and police forces around the country have issued guidance to help farmers protect themselves from con artists.
Charles Ireland of Strutt and Parker’s Oxford office added: “Fraud is always distressing, but with commodity prices under pressure the last thing farmers need is to fall foul of devious and heartless criminals.”
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Source: Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit
The Country Land and Business Association highlighted data from Financial Fraud Action UK showing the first half of 2015 saw financial fraud losses rise by six percent.
CLA Eastern Regional Director Ben Underwood said: “A lot of information as to who receives BPS payments is publicly available, which makes farmers and landowners increasingly vulnerable.
“Criminals can target specific individuals and sound very convincing because of the large amount of data they have at their finger tips. Therefore it’s vital that everyone involved in running rural businesses are on alert.
“Be cautious if you get any call, text or email out of the blue about your BPS payments, even if they state there has been fraud on your account. Remember that just because a caller knows a decent amount about your business, it is not confirmation that their message is authentic.
“If in doubt, put the phone down, wait five or 10 minutes to ensure the call has definitely ended, and then call the organisation the caller claimed to have been from, ensuring to use a number you have used previously and know is trustworthy.”