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Farmers are being warned against a new cyber crime called ‘ghosting’, after one on the West Coast fell victim to the convincing scam leaving them thousands of pounds out of pocket.
The farmer had agreed to buy a new machine from a machinery dealer and was negotiating, through phone calls and emails, a finance agreement with the bank.
Half way through the negotiation, the contact at the bank replied to the email conversation with ‘revised’ account details. The convincing email still bore the electronic signature of the bank with all the usual fraud warnings, telephone numbers and logos attached. The farmer duly sent the money to this account believing everything to be in order.
Shortly 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 half way through the conversation.
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.
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.’
Sergeant Alan McDowall of Police Scotland said: ‘Cybercrime can take many different forms therefore it is important to be aware of current and emerging trends involving this type of criminality.’