Farm business scams targeting agriculture sector on the rise, warns ACCC

Australian farmers and small businesses in rural and regional areas are urged to be cautious, particularly when purchasing heavy machinery, following a spike in scams targeting the agricultural sector this year.

Reports to competition watchdog, ACCC’s Scamwatch, show that Australian agricultural businesses lost more than $1.2 million to scammers between January 1 and August 31, 2022, an increase of more than 20% compared to the same period last year.

According to the ACCC, the most common scam targeting farmers involved the sale of tractors and heavy machinery, with losses from this scam alone exceeding $1 million so far this year.

“Scammers are ruthlessly luring farmers and rural businesses with seemingly good online deals on tractors and other agricultural machinery through fake websites or fake classifieds on legitimate platforms and publications,” the vice president said. from the ACCC, Mick Keogh.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a worrying increase in farming scams in recent years as farming businesses increasingly purchase machinery online. These scams cause substantial financial loss and emotional devastation.

“The scammers are very sophisticated in the way they impersonate a business – some fake websites have ABNs for example – so we urge farmers and business owners to be alert to the risks of scams. and do extra checks to avoid getting caught,” Mick Keogh said.

The ACCC warns that scammers deceive people through an ever-changing range of methods, such as providing a sales contract, answering questions about the potential sale of machines by phone or email, or the offer of a free trial period once the money is deposited in an escrow account. , which is part of the scam.

The ACCC advises that independently verifying the existence of a business by researching the business address and calling a nearby business is an important step in ensuring the seller is who they say they are. be.

“Many scams can be revealed by searching the internet for the exact wording of the ad. Never click on a link provided by the seller or pay upfront – even if you are promised the money is refundable. Ask to pay at the time of delivery or pick-up,” said Mick Keogh.

“If possible, inspect machines in person or via live video first. Scammers will often have an excuse as to why machines cannot be inspected in person and that is a red flag for any buyer.

“Scammers may advertise machines at prices below the typical market rate. As always, if it sounds too good to be true or you feel pressured in any way, chances are it will either a scam,” Keogh said.

The ACCC says farmers are also warned against giving out too much personal information, as scammers target more than money.

“Legitimate sellers will only ask for enough information to deliver what you ordered, so it’s important not to give out too much personal information over the phone or online, or you could be a victim of identity theft. “, said Keogh.

“If you have provided personal information and are concerned that you have been scammed, contact IDCARE(link is external) immediately.”

The ACCC says businesses, whether or not they’ve lost money, are encouraged to report scams and learn more about how to get help on the Scamwatch website to.


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