Bank branch staff worked with the police to stop £19 million of fraud in the first half of 2020 through the Banking Protocol, according to the latest figures from UK Finance.
The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme that enables bank branch staff to alert their local police force when they suspect a customer is being scammed. Police will then visit the branch to investigate the suspected fraud and arrest any suspects still on the scene.
£19.3 million of fraud was prevented and over 100 arrests were made through the scheme between January and June 2020. The latest figures mean the scheme has prevented victims losing a total of £116 million of fraud and led to 744 arrests since it was first introduced three years ago by UK Finance, National Trading Standards and local police forces.2
The scheme is often used to prevent impersonation scams, in which criminals imitate police or bank staff and convince people to visit their bank and withdraw or transfer large sums of money. These can include courier scams, where those targeted are persuaded to take out a large sum of cash and hand it over to a fraudster posing as a courier. They can also include safe account scams, where the victims are told their money isn’t safe in the account it’s currently in and needs to be transferred to another account.
The initiative has also been used to prevent romance fraud, in which fraudsters use fake online dating profiles to trick victims into transferring money, and to catch rogue traders who prey on the elderly by demanding cash for unnecessary work on their property. UK Finance has today published top tips from the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign on how to stay safe from these scam types.4
Branch staff are trained to spot the warning signs that suggest someone may have fallen for one of these scams and make an emergency call to the police. 3,250 calls have been made in the first six months of this year through the scheme, including 637 in June.
Data provided by police forces shows that customers helped through the Banking Protocol are typically aged over 65 while some were over 100 years old, demonstrating how these scams are often targeted towards the elderly and vulnerable.
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, said “It is sickening that criminals are preying on elderly and vulnerable victims during this difficult time. Bank branch staff on the frontline are doing a heroic job in stopping these cruel scams and helping bring those responsible to justice.”
“The banking industry is now working with police forces to expand this scheme to telephone and online banking, with a focus on protecting vulnerable customers.”
“It’s vital that people always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember that a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to another account or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.”
Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, the lead force for fraud, said “Banks are often the first point of contact when someone is about to fall victim to fraud, so the banking protocol is a vital way of protecting vulnerable victims and preventing criminals from taking advantage of them.”
“Having a system in place where an immediate police response can be generated to a suspected fraud, allows officers to gain vital evidence and increases our chances of catching the criminal in person, or following the money trail right to their door.”