Farmers are being warned to ‘pin it or pen it’ when it comes to expensive tractor GPS systems as the countryside continues to be targeted by tech-savvy criminal gangs.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual and the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) are urging farmers to make the most of pin enabled security if available on their GPS kit, or to get back to basics and indelibly daub postcodes onto their systems to deter international criminal gangs who are stealing to order for re-sale across the globe.
Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: “From Scotland to the South of England, North Wales to Norfolk via the North West, we are receiving even more reports of all makes and models of GPS being stolen from farms and machinery dealerships across the UK.
“GPS technology plays such a vital role in modern day farming and thefts of systems have been debilitating for farmers who have been hit during the busy harvest period. While replacement systems can be sourced, farmers are working to tight weather windows and it takes time to get up and running again.
“The thieves clearly know what they are looking for and we are getting reports of determined criminal gangs using drones to scope out farms, or carefully planning routes around CCTV surveillance to avoid being caught. The feeling of being watched and targeted is adding to feelings of anxiety for those living and working in isolated areas.”
DC Chris Piggott of NaVCIS said: “Our message to help protect your property is simple – pin it or pen it. So, if you have pin enabled technology to protect your GPS system, make sure it’s up and running and if not, daub your postcode onto kit using indelible ink. It might not look pretty but it’s a big deterrent to thieves who are stealing systems to sell on across the world. Anything that is identifiable and will trace the kit back to its owner will immediately put the thieves off.
“Also make sure you report any suspicious sightings to police, which can help build up a picture and share intelligence with other forces.”
Farmers buying second hand kit are being urged not to inadvertently buy stolen systems from what appear to be bona fide online sellers. Buyers are being advised to rigorously check where the systems have come from if buying from outside a dealership, and to be suspicious of anything that has had serial numbers removed.
As the main insurer of the UK’s farmers NFU Mutual is working with police and tractor manufacturers to tackle this worrying new crime trend. Although all makes and models of GPS are being stolen, to help the checking process, John Deere has a system enabling farmers to call their local dealership to check the serial number of its popular StarFire GPS system. The company’s database includes a marker for stolen equipment – but stresses that not all John Deere thefts are reported to it, and that the system cannot provide proof that equipment offered for sale online is legitimate.
If you are unfortunate to have John Deere equipment stolen, the theft can be reported to local John Deere dealers so it can be logged in the system. To make it more difficult for criminals to sell-on stolen StarFire GPS systems, John Deere included a PIN security feature in its StarFire 6000 series, launched in February 2019.
NFU Mutual GPS security checklist
- Activate PIN security on GPS kit with your own unique number if available
- If your system is not pin enabled, mark your postcode with indelible ink to deter thieves and trace your property back to you
- Keep tractors and combines with GPS fitted stored out of sight when possible
- Remove GPS kit from tractors and other machinery and store it securely when not in use
- Check serial numbers of second-hand kit offered for sale