Farmers are being warned not to fall victim to financial scams as farm payments start to roll.
Already, thousands of farmers and crofters in Scotland have received payments up to 90% of the value of 2017 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims in the form of loans.
In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, advance BPS payments worth 70% of claims have been made.
In England and Wales, the BPS 2017 payments window will open on 1 December.
See also: Farmers a major target for cyber crooks
The rollout of large sums of money presents a prime opportunity for cyber criminals to target farmers, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) has warned.
Details of historical CAP payments are freely available on the internet, indicating the potential size of the prize to criminals.
The SBRC said armed with this information, criminals may try to send a variety of different emails to farmers in an effort to extract bank account information.
They may also try to trick farmers into making payments into the wrong account by posing as the CEO or someone else within an organisation the business typically makes payments.
The fraudster will often ask the victim to quickly transfer money to a certain bank account for a specific reason or request payment details be changed on an existing vendor’s account to one controlled by the fraudster. This is typically known as CEO or mandate fraud.
The SBRC said: “Farmers need to be aware they may become prime targets in the coming days and weeks and should be suspicious of any emails or phone calls asking them to take urgent action in relation to payments or their bank accounts.”
Data collected by fraud prevention service Cifas shows that nearly 19% of UK identity fraud victims are company directors who have been tricked into handing out bank account information.
Contrary to the perception that victims of identity fraud tend to be older people with little awareness of cyber risks, almost a third of director-level fraud victims are in their 30s with a large “digital footprint”.
Susan Archer, NFU solicitor and specialist advice team manager, said: “The NFU is encouraging all farm businesses to be vigilant and on the lookout for any suspicious behaviour that may be a scam.
“If you notice unusual patterns of behaviour or requests to change payment details from customers or suppliers, always investigate these further to confirm they are legitimate. If you are a victim of a scam, the NFU encourages you to report it to the police or National Trading Standards.”
SBRC advice on how to spot a cyber attack
- Emails from suppliers asking for funds to be transferred to a different bank account
- Emails claiming that there is a problem with an account
- Phone calls from banks saying there appears to be unusual activity on their account.
In all of these instances, the recipient should verify the email or phone call with the person claiming to have sent it.
This means they should search the internet for the relevant phone number and call the person rather than trust any numbers sent via email or given over the phone.