Farm technology linked to the internet is being targeted by hackers to gain access to valuable farm data and shutdown key functions.
Without the appropriate security software installed in systems, such as those used for operating modern milking parlours and GPS, farmers are leaving themselves exposed to cyber attack, warns Paul Callard of the Dyfed-Powys Police financial crime team.
During a Farmers’ Union of Wales-hosted farm security event in Pembrokeshire, Mr Callard said cybersecurity should be an important part of farming processes.
He advised running two separate computers, one for business and one for personal use, investing in new kit every two years and destroying redundant machines.
With fraud accounting for 48% of all crime in the UK, it is becoming more commonplace for farmers to be defrauded via the internet, by telephone or on the doorstep.
The reasons are multiple, Mr Callard suggested, including increased use of internet sites to buy and sell machinery, and criminals seeing farmers as an easy target because many live and work in isolation.
“Farmers quite often spend a lot of time on their own and might not have someone to discuss that suspicious email or telephone call with before acting on it.
“None of us think we will fall victim to a scammer, but these people put a lot of time and effort into convincing people they are who they want us to think they are.”
Mr Callard said farmers should never feel rushed or forced into a decision.
“Give yourself a bit of thinking time,” he recommended.
One common scam involves promised listings in business directories.
Trading standards officer Sandra McSparron, of Pembrokeshire County Council, said farmhouse bed and breakfast providers have been caught up in business directory scams.
“People will call claiming to provide advertising space in a magazine, but those publications are often not printed in bulk or even distributed or, if they are, not in the numbers described,” said Ms McSparron.
Eco-energy is another favourite with rogue traders operating in rural regions, she added.
“We have recently been involved in a case where a farmer paid £14,000 to a doorstep caller selling air source pumps.
“The company did exist, but they were not trading fairly. They made forecasts on savings, but when the pump was installed on the farm, the savings quoted were nowhere near what had been promised.”
Trading standards will intervene in cases where farmers believe they have been the victim of a rogue trader.
Ms McSparron warned farmers never to be taken in by someone offering to reduce their business rates in return for a fee.
“The scammers encourage people to sign the paperwork with the promise of a cooling off period, but if the person withdraws, the caller employs very aggressive tactics to persuade them to change their mind.”
How to avoid becoming victim of scams
- Criminals may already have basic information about you in their possession so do not assume a caller is genuine because they have these details or because they claim to represent a legitimate organisation.
- Be wary of unsolicited approaches by phone, and cold callers who suggest you hang up the phone and call them back – fraudsters can keep your phone line open by not putting down the receiver at their end.
- Your bank, the police or a government body will never phone to ask for your four-digit card PIN or your online banking password or ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons. Be suspicious of any calls, texts or emails purporting to be from these organisations.
- Use an app installed on your mobile and not a computer for online banking.
- Register for free with the mail and telephone preference service on 03450 700 705.
- If it seems too good to be true, it is. Think before you agree to anything.