Yorkshire farmer loses £100k in phone scam

A Yorkshire farmer was conned out of £100k in a sophisticated telephone scam that is targeting the farming industry.

The revelation will send shockwaves through the industry because up to now, it was believed that only farmers in south Lancashire were being targeted.

The NFU’s North West branch issued a warning to its members about the fraud last week after farmers lost a total of £500,000 in the sophisticated scam .

The latest victim, who did not want to be named, contacted Farmers Weekly after we published the story on Friday (28 March).

“I’m absolutely gutted. I feel stupid and embarrassed, but I want other farmers to know what happened to me so they don’t fall for the same trap,” said the distraught farmer.

“You try your best to manage your money to the best of your ability and it’s just gone in an instant. It’s life changing.”

Fraudsters telephoned the farmer and told him there had been “unauthorised transactions” taken from his online banking account.

The victim, a Barclays Bank account holder, was asked to contact his bank’s helpline on the back of his debit card to transfer the money into two holding accounts.

But while the farmer telephoned the number, the fraudsters somehow intercepted the call and stayed on the line.

They asked the farmer some false security questions and managed to convince him to authorise two transactions totalling £100k, split between two bogus accounts.

But when the farmer phoned his bank later that afternoon, they told him he had been conned.

He later realised that he had sent the money to a Lloyds banking account in Chelmsford, Essex and a TSB Bank account in Shipley, West Yorkshire.

See also: Farmers warned to stay vigilant over phone scam

An investigation involving Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre, the Metropolitan Police, Barclays Bank, Lloyds and TSB, is under way to try to recover the money and arrest those responsible. However, the victim said he had received no assurances that he will ever get his money back.

“The man was very well spoken and seemed well-educated with a posh English accent,” he said.

“It was all a confidence trick, taking an interest in who you are and what your are doing. The scary thing is he knew my name and that I was a Barclays Bank customer.”

The victim has farmed in partnership with his brother for the last 15 years under an arable farm tenancy in North Yorkshire.

“We have scrimped and saved and done without for years. We were just getting on an even keel and things were getting better, but now we are worse than ever,” he said.

“What makes it even worse is half of that money was my brother’s. We have worked our puddings off.

“It just so happened that there was a good amount of money in the pot.

The farmers had planned to buy a new trailer with the money, but have had to ring up the company and cancel the order.

The NFU described the latest case as a “worrying development”.

NFU economist Anand Dossa said: “We urge farming businesses to be aware of this and similar scams. We advise farmers to remain extra vigilant and to be cautious when dealing with individuals on the phone.

“Please always ask the caller for the telephone number or address of the company and check the details. Any farmer who is concerned or suspicious should contact their bank.”

Meanwhile, NFU Scotland said a “small number” of farmers had fallen victim to the same scam.

NFUS finance director Colin Gordon said: “This is such a busy time of year for farming with lambing, calving and sowing that farmers could be easily caught out by alarming calls from people claiming to represent their bank’s fraud department. Do not fall for this.

“Representatives of the banking sector have informed us that the number of farmers receiving fake calls are increasing, and now some Scottish farmers have been tricked.”

Have you been a victim of this scam? Contact the Farmers Weekly newsdesk anonymously on 020 8652 4915 or email philip.case@rbi.co.uk

* Remember, your bank will never call, email or text you to ask you for your account number, PIN or password to your account. Farmers who are targeted, should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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