'If it's too good to be true, it probably is' - farmers and older people warned of latest online scams

Stock photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Stock photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

With older farmers increasingly being forced to carry out their business online they are being warned to be vigilant against online scams.

Speaking to FarmIreland Ulster Bank’s Community Protection Advisor, Denise Cusack said that like everyone else, farmers should take steps to protect themselves and make sure they know what to do if they suspect fraud.

“I see first hand every day the financial and emotional distress that can be caused by fraud and so I know how important awareness and education are if we are to prevent this.

Goods not Received scam

According to Cusack, one of the most common scams she sees among farmers is 'Goods not Received'.

“That’s when they order and pay for a piece of machinery on a website but never get delivery of the machinery.

Recently a Limerick farmer buying hay to beat the fodder crisis was scammed out of a “considerable amount of money”. The farmer contacted the person and agreed to pay a considerable amount of money for the hay. However, he paid the money into the seller’s bank account before the hay was delivered and the bales of hay were never delivered.

Cusack advised farmers to do their research into exactly who they are buying from and read reviews if possible.

“Remember seeing is believing, where possible view the item you are buying or look for relevant documentation before handing over any money,” she said.

She also warned that farmers should be very wary of a seller looking for deposits or money in advance.

“My strong advice would be to not lodge funds into unknown sellers accounts before viewing the item you are buying.

“Avoid paying for items by cash, don’t be pressurised into buying an item or paying a deposit and always remember if it’s too good to be true then it normally is.”

The Overpayment Scam

Another scam that farmers need to watch out for is ‘The Overpayment Scam’, Cusack said.

In this scam the fraudster targets a legitimate seller, striking up a rapport by phone or email and discussing the goods or services they wish to purchase.

“Payment is then usually sent by cheque or draft, which is made out for an amount significantly higher than the purchase price agreed.

“The seller then receives an email to inform them a mistake has been made and they have been overpaid in error.

“The fraudster asks the seller to return all or part of the money electronically, as quickly as possible. The original cheque or draft (which is forged, counterfeit or fraudulently altered in some way) will be rejected and not paid, so the seller is then at the loss of the funds they have returned to the fraudster.

“My advice to farmers to avoid this would be to consider whether explanations from the buyer seller are credible.

“They should always ensure that a credit to their account cannot be returned unpaid before they release any goods or funds,” she said.

Telephone and text scams

Farmers who live in isolated areas also need to be aware of people calling to their door unannounced to offer a service or product, according to Cusack and like all of us, they should be alert to telephone and text scams.

Telephone and text scams are known as Vishing and Smishing and occur when fraudsters contact customers pretending to be from their Bank, the Gardaí or companies they trust to convince them to divulge information or pay money out of their account.

“They often use sophisticated technology to make the number appear like it's a genuine number. One we’re seeing at the moment is where a caller contacts someone by phone and asks them about their broadband and whether they would like an increase in quality and speed.

“They use this as a reason to get the customers personal details and potentially scam them out of money.

“I know that nowadays more farmers are doing their business online and this is a very efficient way to do business. People should also remain alert and take steps to protect themselves,” she said.

Identity theft

Cusack said recent research Ulster Bank has carried out found a rise in identity theft.

“The survey found that there’s been a significant increase in the proportion of those who claim to have been a victim of identity theft, up from 8pc in 2017 to 14pc in 2018. It also found that identity theft is highest amongst women (17pc) and those aged 35 to 44 (17pc).

“I would advise people to take steps to protect your own data online or over the phone, and to always destroy all documents containing your personal data, rather than just discarding them with the rest of your rubbish.

“If you do encounter suspicious behaviour, remember to contact our dedicated fraud and scams team immediately.

“It’s good to see that many people are taking steps to protect themselves. Our nationwide research has found that 87pc of people regularly monitor their account for unusual activity and two thirds (62pc) have anti-virus software on all of their devices.

“This is good practice and I would encourage farmers to take these steps.

My top tips are:

  1. Be vigilant. Just because someone knows basic personal details (such as names and addresses or even a customer’s mother’s maiden name), it doesn’t mean they are genuine. Listen to your instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, take a moment to stop and pause and think things over.
  2. Always follow your bank’s security advice and never provide remote access to your device when asked to do so following a cold call.
  3. Be cautious with what you disclose on social media and take precautions to ensure your profile is private and only viewable to people they know.
  4. Keep your mobile devices’ operating systems up to date to ensure that they have the latest security patches and upgrades. 
  5. Remember - a genuine bank or organisation will never ask you to transfer money to a safe account for fraud reasons. And a genuine bank will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your full PIN or password. Stay in control and have the confidence to refuse unusual requests for information.”

Online Editors