Thursday, August 22, 2019

Stay vigilant against fraud attacks, farmers urged

May 1, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

Criminals are employing increasingly sophisticated levels of fraud and cybersecurity against farmers, a leading banker has warned.

Fraudsters are targeting small to medium-sized farming enterprises – especially when they know larger income streams, such as support payments, are landing in bank accounts, said HSBC head of agriculture Neil Wilson.

“This very real threat comes in many forms and can be devastating for those businesses and individuals that fall victim to this kind of fraudulent activity,” said Mr Wilson.

“It might be easy to fall into the trap of thinking it will never be me, [but] these fraudsters are very professional. This is their job after all – they just need to catch you at a busy moment, or when you are distracted, and they can achieve their own goal very quickly.

“If you have any suspicion at all that a call or email seems strange or out of place, please hang up and take some time to really think if it all adds up.”

Scam victims

Criminals stole £1.2bn through fraud in 2018, with both individuals and businesses falling victim to a range of scams. But banks and card companies prevented a further £1.66bn in unauthorised fraud during the same year.

Mr Wilson was speaking as he launched HSBC’s Taking the Pulse report, which examines a number of issues facing the agricultural sector. Farmers are being targeted by four types of fraud, says the document. These include:

Business email compromise: A fraudster impersonates a legitimate person and emails a company’s payments team to convince them to make an urgent payment or change account details.

Text and phone scams: Phishing phone calls (‘vishing’) and scam texts (‘smishing’) are cheap and easy attacks to commit. Both can result in theft by tricking people into installing malware or divulging personal information.

Malware: Just some of the threats include viruses, trojan horses, bots, adware and ransomware. Malware can get into your system through infected hardware or phishing scams, staying hidden among your legitimate programs before it’s activated.

Phishing: Phishing emails look real and appear to be from legitimate senders, to entice you to click on malicious links or attachments –  in order to steal money or data.

Simple steps

“Farmers can take some simple steps to protect themselves,” said Mr Wilson.

“Never disclose security details, HSBC will never ask for your PIN or full password. Never assume an email or phone call is authentic, fraudsters can falsify phone numbers and pose convincingly as bank employees or other officials.”

Like other people, farmers should never be rushed or pressured into decisions, particularly about on-the-spot financial transactions or transfers, said Mr Wilson. They should stay in control and follow their instincts, he added.

“If something feels wrong, question it. The threat of cybercrime is very real but taking the right precautions and being wary of any unsolicited approaches can help you keep your business safe – don’t assume, don’t be rushed, never disclose.”