Farmers are being warned to be wary of any suspicious calls, texts or emails as fraudsters specifically target the agricultural sector as EU grant payments begin to arrive into bank accounts.
Information about payments, including the recipients’ names and the amount paid, is publicly available, meaning criminals are able to directly target victims and make their approaches appear more convincing.
The scam communications will typically claim fraud has been detected on the farmer’s bank account and suggest urgent action is required to safeguard funds.
The victim is then encouraged to divulge personal or financial information, or even to transfer money directly into a so-called ‘safe account’.
With some grants worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, in past years fraudsters have stolen significant amounts of money.
Detective Chief Inspector Kenny Thomson, Police Scotland economic crime unit, said,“Police Scotland works closely with the financial services sector to protect the public from falling victim to fraud.
“Criminals are aware of these annual payments to the farming community and will seize any opportunity to defraud their victims.
“It is vital recipients of the EU grant payments, remain alert to any suspicious phone calls, texts or emails asking for personal or financial information, or encouraging them to transfer money to another account.
“If you receive such a call or message, hang up the phone and do not reply directly. Instead, wait five minutes and ring your bank to alert them to the scam, using a phone number which you trust – such as the one from the official website.”
NFU Scotland advised: “While EU payments are to be delayed in Scotland, the commencement of payment runs in other parts of the UK has prompted a spike in attempts by fraudsters to access farming bank accounts.
“The message is ‘please do not fall for alarming calls or emails from people claiming to represent your bank’s fraud department’. These scams have stripped hundreds of thousands of pounds out of UK farm accounts in recent years.’’