Farmers in Northern Ireland have been warned to be on their guard against fraudsters targeting the agriculture sector, by the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

It said those behind various scams are after EU grant payments now going into bank accounts.

With information about the payments, including the recipients’ names and the amount paid available on-line, criminals can target farmers directly and make their approach more convincing, according to the union.

UFU Deputy President Barclay Bell said that fraudsters are contacting farmers claiming to represent their bank and using a number of tactics to trick them into disclosing account details.

“These unscrupulous individuals are very convincing. They may have already obtained information about who you bank with and other details about your account,” he said.

“This is why we are encouraging everyone to be vigilant,” he said.

The UFU has said that anyone who receives such a call, text or email should not engage with the caller.

Instead they should put the phone down and call their bank, but crucially after making sure the line is clear, the union said.

Caution is essential as the caller can leave the phone line open and trick you into believing you are phoning the bank.

“You should use a different phone or phone someone else and speak to them before the bank,” Bell said.

He added that, if possible, it is better to visit the bank, while raising suspicions with the police.

“It is vital everyone is aware of this scam. Banks will never phone, text or email asking for online password information.

“Nor will they ever ask anyone to make a payment over the phone using an online account,” he said.

The UFU has told farmers that banks will never ask customers for secure log-on details, either over the phone or by email.

“Telephone calls asking for these will not be from a bank or indeed any legitimate company, so the person calling is inevitably a fraudster,” Bell warned.

He added that this scam was being operated right across the UK.