Ayrshire farmer cheated out of thousands in machinery ‘ghosting’ scam

Organisers of a rural crime conference have said cybercrime will be included in the event after an Ayrshire farmer was caught up in a so-called ‘ghosting’ scam.

National Farmers’ Union Scotland said the convincing scam left the affected business 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.

Halfway 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.

Dealer rang asking for payment

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 wished to remain 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.


Encouraging all members to register and attend the conference, regional manager Christine Cuthbertson said: “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.”

Sergeant Alan McDowall of South Ayrshire Community Policing Team said:  “Cybercrime can take many different forms, therefore, it is important to be aware of current and emerging trends involving this type of criminality.

“If farmers are unable to attend the event on October 5, information and advice are available within the ‘Keep Secure Online’ section of the Police Scotland website.”

The ‘Tackling Rural Crime Together – Back to Basics’ event will place at Dumfries House, Cumnock on Friday, October 5.

It will include sessions on the following:

  • Vehicle security – hints and to protect your farm machinery, tractors and pick-ups;
  • Cybercrime – how to avoid commonplace scams and protect yourself from this growing area of fraud;
  • Wildlife crime – what is wildlife crime and what to do if you witness wildlife crime on your land;
  • Protecting yourself & your property – advice on how to reduce your risk of rural crime.

In its recently published 2018 Rural Crime report, leading rural insurer NFU Mutual estimated rural crime in Scotland cost £1.5 million in 2017 – a fall of 3.8% on the previous year.