The farmer agreed to buy a new machine from a machinery dealer and was negotiating through phone calls, emails and a finance agreement with the bank.
Halfway through the negotiation, the contact at the bank replied to the email conversation with “revised” account details. The email still contained the electronic signature of the bank with all the usual fraud warnings, telephone numbers and logos. The farmer sent the money to this account.
Afterwards, the farmer received a phone call from the dealer chasing up the payment on the machine. When the farmer contacted the bank, they informed him that they had been unable to complete the transaction as he had suddenly stopped replying to emails.
This type of scam is referred to as “ghosting” where the scammer has hacked an email account, removed the banker from the conversation and started mimicking emails from the bank. The bank involved has launched an investigation into this in conjunction with Police Scotland’s fraud team.
A discussion on how to tackle cybercrime will take place at the ‘Tackling Rural Crime Together – Back to Basics’ at Dumfries House, Cumnock on Friday 5 October, in response to the incident.
The event organised by regional manager Christine Cuthbertson will also include sessions on how to protect vehicles and property and what to do when farmers witness wildlife crime on their farm.
The farmer involved, who remains anonymous, said: “Please be vigilant folks. Even in hindsight, and having reviewed the emails, the only indication that an intruder had taken over the email conversation with the bank was a very slight change in writing style – something that we simply assumed was a banker typing in a hurry.
“It was a very convincing scam that has stung us, leaving us several thousand pounds out of pocket and no guarantee that we’re getting it back.”
Cuthbertson added: “Scammers are becoming increasingly devious when it comes targeting businesses and this incidence of ghosting in the region must serve as a sharp reminder to all to be alert at all times. Whether it is your bank account, your property or your pick-up, the event at Dumfries House will offer back to basics guidance on how to protect what is yours.”