Fraud threat demands constant vigilance

It seems unbelievable that for the second or third time in a year I’m warning about fraud. The internet is now a highway straight into our wallets. In recent weeks we’ve seen warnings from the North of England and Scotland that farmers are being targeted, and in one case the fraudsters got £50,000.

Thieves are targeting farmers because they know this is a time of the year when bank accounts are strong. Single Farm Payments have been received and for arable farmers in particular cash flows are still positive.

In the cases highlighted farmers were rung and told of an online attack on their bank account. They were advised to call their bank directly by a so-called ‘anti-fraud’ team. When they did so the fraudsters kept the line open and intercepted the call. They acted very persuasively as ‘the bank’, secured information about account details and, crucially, passwords that enabled them to transfer money.

It’s easy to be wise after the event, but fraudsters are amazingly good at what they do. If you forget everything else in this column, just remember one thing: your bank or building society will never, without exception, ask for your password or the access information for your account. If someone does, they are out to take your money.

This ruse works with landlines because it is possible to keep it open when you put your phone down. If you want to call your bank back, always use a different phone.

Almost every day new reports emerge of the inventiveness of thieves. Examples include the courier trick. Something, typically a number of mobile phones, are delivered to your address, but immediately you get a call from a courier company to say there has been a mistake and they will collect them again, offering a receipt. In reality the phones were ordered from your account, and taken away by a bogus courier – the first you know of it being when you begin battling with your phone provider over upgrade phones you never ordered, but which were charged to your direct debit account.

Boiler room scams are an old trick, where persuasive people call from companies with impressive names offering you the chance to buy shares in a business about to take off. They will flatter that you’ve been selected because of your high net wealth. If you part with money the shares will be non-existent or worthless.

Don’t be misled by impressive addresses or websites. They can be falsified and most of these operations are run from back rooms, often outside the scope of the UK authorities. Don’t be afraid to be rude – just put the phone down. With emails, never click on a link to submit your bank details – always open a site from scratch and always be suspicious of any email appearing out of the blue.

In a nutshell, if something looks or sounds too good to be true, it is; you are never specially selected for anything legitimate; HMRC will never contact you by email and your bank will not use email for anything confidential. And no matter how persuasive they might sound, anyone asking for your bank log-on details is robbing you at that moment.

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