Farmers need to be more vigilant in the face of increasingly sophisticated fraud and cybersecurity attacks, HSBC UK has warned.
Criminals stole £1.2 bn through fraud in 2018, with both individuals and businesses falling victim to a range of scams.
And banks and card companies prevented attempts to obtain a further £1.66bn in unauthorised fraud during the year.
HSBC’s head of agriculture Neil Wilson said the fraudsters often had some knowledge of farming and knew when to target businesses.
Attacks are usually timed when farm businesses are most likely to have money in their accounts, such as during the Basic Payment Scheme window.
“This very real threat comes in many forms and can be devastating for those businesses and individuals that fall victim,” said Mr Wilson.
“It might be easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘it will never be me’, however, these fraudsters are professional. They just need to catch you at a busy moment, or when you are distracted, and they can achieve their goal very quickly.
“If you have any suspicion at all that a call or email seems strange or out of place, please hang up and take some time to really think if it all adds up,” he advised.
The warning came in HSBC’s Taking the Pulse document which explained that farmers were being targeted by four types of fraud.
Four types of fraud
Business email compromise: A fraudster impersonates a legitimate person and emails a company’s payments team to convince them to make an urgent payment or change account details.
Text and phone scams: Phishing phone calls (‘vishing’) and scam texts (‘smishing’) are cheap and easy attacks to commit. Both can result in theft or fraud by tricking you into installing malware or divulging personal information.
Malware: Just some of the threats include viruses, Trojan horses, bots, adware and ransomware. Malware can get into your system through infected hardware or phishing scams, staying hidden among your legitimate programs before it’s activated.
Phishing: Phishing emails look real and appear to be from legitimate senders, to entice you to click on malicious links or attachments –to steal money or data.
Mr Wilson urged farmers to take simple steps to protect themselves.
“Never disclose security details, banks will never ask for your PIN or full password and never assume an email or phone call is authentic – fraudsters can falsify phone numbers and pose convincingly as bank employees or other officials,” Mr Wilson said.
He added: “Never be rushed or pressured into decisions, particularly about on-the-spot financial transactions or transfers.
“Follow your instincts – if something feels wrong, question it.
“The threat of cybercrime is very real but taking the right precautions and being wary of any unsolicited approaches can help you keep your business safe – don’t assume, don’t be rushed, never disclose.”