Beef farmer Douglas Ledger thought he had snapped up a bargain after spotting a low-mileage tractor for £10,800.
The advert, which appeared on Gumtree and also on eBay, was for a 2011 Massey Ferguson 5455 tractor and Quicke loader – with a “very low 450 hours” of use.
According to the ad, the tractor had been used in a horse yard and had only “light paddock” use – hence the low hours.
Mr Ledger, who farms in Dover, Kent, declined an offer to pay for shipping and decided to pay for the tractor with a secure transaction through PayPal.
But he made the massive error of paying for the tractor through a fake PayPal link, emailed to him by the vendor, and his £10,800 was debited into the scammer’s personal bank account – not via PayPal.
‘My heart ruled my head’
“I feel like such a fool. Obviously, I’m not as intelligent as I thought I was,” Mr Ledger told Farmers Weekly.
“Greed got the better of me – I let my heart rule my head. It was a fantastic price for such a high-value tractor.
“It just shows how your emotions can rule your common sense.”
Mr Ledger made the transaction on 4 February. But when the tractor failed to arrive the next day, he soon realised he had been the victim of an elaborate scam.
He contacted PayPal and was told they had no record of his transaction. He then contacted his bank which worked with Metro Bank to freeze the vendor’s account.
An inquiry involving fraud officers from Kent Police is under way. But he suspects the stolen funds may have been transferred into another account.
“The guy knew what he was doing,” said Mr Ledger. “He hangs this carrot in front of you, gently, gently. And then reels in his monkey.”
Mr Ledger said the vendor claimed to be living on the Isle of Man and said the only way he did business was by email.
He hopes that by speaking out he will prevent others farmer from being duped.
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” he added.
Mr Ledger understands the tractor may have previously been owned by someone in Hampshire. He is keen to trace any previous owners.
Tips to avoid falling victim to a machinery scam
Farmers have become a prime target for cyber crooks and there is more need than ever to protect farm businesses from becoming the next victim.
In the UK, fraud and cybercrime is committed every four seconds, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
And farmers are considered to be at particular risk at certain times of the year when farm subsidy payments are made.
Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and online crime, has issued advice for farmers looking to buy machinery.
As a buyer you should:
- Try to avoid paying by money transfers – they aren’t secure.
- Be careful when using direct banking transactions to pay for goods. Make sure transactions are secure.
- Don’t send confidential personal or financial information by email.
- Use an online payment option such as PayPal, which helps to protect you. Be careful of clicking on links and make sure it is the genuine site.
As a seller you should:
- Be wary of accepting payment by cheque. Even though it may clear, you are still liable if the cheque is forged or stolen.
- Never accept a cheque for a higher amount and refund the difference. This is a common fraud that only comes to light when the buyers’ cheque turns out to be stolen or forged.
Protect yourself against shopping and auction fraud:
- Make sure you’ve installed the latest software and app updates. Criminals use weaknesses in software to attack your devices and steal information, such as your payment details.
- Use a strong, separate password for your email account. Criminals can use your email to access other online accounts, such as those you use for online shopping.
- Don’t pay for goods or services by bank transfer unless you know and trust the person.
- Don’t click on a link in an unexpected email or text.
If you believe your business has been the victim of fraud or cybercrime, you should report this to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 (service available 24/7) or via the website www.actionfraud.police.uk
* Do you recognise the Massey tractor pictured above? Did you previously own it? If so, email firstname.lastname@example.org