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New Moray police chief warns farmers are being targeted by cyber criminals

Moray’s new police chief has warned farmers to be on the alert for “evolving” criminal gangs who may target their rural properties’ IT systems.

Area Commander for Moray, Chief Inspector Simon Reid said cyber and rural crime as well as “hidden harms” like domestic abuse and child exploitation are some of his top priorities.

Ch Insp Reid has already joined his local officers on the beat to understand policing challenges facing them and he urged the public to come forward with their concerns or suggestions about where resources are needed the most.

In his first interview since taking on the role, Ch Insp Reid spoke of “huge challenges” for the force as the country comes out of the Covid-19 crisis.

He said: “One element that we do see in terms of the pandemic taking effect that causes challenges is cyber-enabled criminality.

“That’s something we’ve seen a rise in as people have become more reliant on technology.

“People feel they can anonymously undertake some of these acts of criminality, but we have specialist officers who are experts in managing to overcome these attempts to remain anonymous.

“Crime has evolved and will continue to evolve, and we will evolve with it in terms of our means by which we seek to detect and bring those responsible to justice and put them before the courts.”

Vulnerable to fraudsters

He said the north-east’s cybercrime team have seen phishing attempts – emails designed to dupe users into sharing personal information – and false invoices circulating to communities considered “vulnerable” to fraudsters, in particular farmers.

He said: “Farms are small businesses like any other and they’re equally susceptible to being targeted by those who might seek to take advantage of their IT system, so they’re vulnerable to cyber attack.

“These cybercrimes are massively impactive upon some of these small communities within the rural environment.”

Mr Reid also highlighted his worries over vulnerable Moray residents suffering in silence behind closed doors.

He said: “Hidden harms have led to huge challenges for many people.

“Things that are often hidden from public view – things such as domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation.

“Our officers are hugely vigilant to this and have been throughout the pandemic and continue to be.

“The reason why it causes us concern is because the lockdowns and the restrictions have resulted in far less direct contact for these vulnerable people with places they ordinarily might expect it – be that workplace, with friends, with families, with GP surgeries – who they may otherwise report or cause these issues to be highlighted to us.”

Positive work

Ch Insp Reid – who takes over role from Chief Inspector Norman Stevenson – encouraged locals to help him do it better.

He said: “I’ve managed to spend some time with our staff out and about on the beat to see their positive work in the area and their commitment to serving it.

“We have our ‘Your Police’ survey ongoing at the moment which allows people to feed in to say what their priorities are – what areas they wish us to focus on.”

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