Farmers warned to be wary of EU grant fraudsters

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Farmers have been warned to be ‘extremely wary’ when EU grant payments begin to arrive in bank accounts this month after fears fraudsters may target the sector.

Lincolnshire Police and the national Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) have put out the warning today (Tuesday) as farmers are set to start receiving payments from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), the biggest slice of money from the EU which aims to help the industry.

Because the information about payments and recipients’ names is publicly available, there are fears criminals could directly target victims and ‘make their approaches appear more convincing’.

Scams include farmer’s being told that fraud has been detected on their account and to take ‘urgent action’, persuading the victim to divulge personal or financial information, or even to transfer money directly into a so-called ‘safe account’.

DCPCU Senior Fraud Prevention Officer Tony Blake said: “Criminals are well aware of when these annual payments start to arrive and will look for any opportunity to defraud their victims. It is vital that farmers, and other recipients of the payment, are alert to these scams and are very wary of any phone calls, texts or emails out of the blue asking for personal or financial information, or 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 that you trust - such as the one from the official website.”

With some grants worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, in past years fraudsters have stolen significant amounts of money from their victims. As well as farmers, other organisations which use farm land also receive BPS funds.

The authorities have released advice on how to avoid being scammed.

They say to be wary of:

- Any calls, texts or emails purporting to be from your bank, the police, a Government body or other organisation asking for personal or financial details, or for you to transfer money.

- 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.

- Any request to check that the number showing on your telephone display matches an organisation’s registered telephone number. The display cannot be trusted, as the number showing can be altered by the caller.

And remember:

- You will never be asked for your 4 digit PIN or your online banking password, or for you to transfer money to a new account for “fraud reasons”.

- If you receive a suspicious call, hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line, or where possible use a different phone line, then call your bank or card issuer on their advertised number to report the fraud.

Never disclose your:

- Four digit card PIN to anyone, including the bank or police.

- Your password or online banking codes.

- Personal details unless you are certain you know who you are talking to. People are not always who they say they are.