Over £100 million worth of fraud — often targeting vulnerable and elderly customers — has been prevented through the Banking Protocol, a UK-wide scheme that enables bank branch staff to spot potential fraud victims and request an immediate police response.
The latest figures from UK Finance reveal that 16,462 calls have been made through the rapid response scheme since its launch in October 2016, with an average of £6,077 of fraud being prevented per call. The initiative has led to the arrest of 664 suspected fraudsters since its launch.
The Banking Protocol was introduced to crack down on scams in which customers are tricked into visiting their bank in person to withdraw money and hand it over to a criminal. Under the initiative, developed in partnership between UK Finance, local police forces and National Trading Standards, bank branch staff are trained to spot the warning signs that suggest a customer may be falling victim to such a scam. The staff member can then invoke the Banking Protocol, leading the local police to send a priority response to the branch to investigate the suspected fraud and arrest any suspects still on the scene.
The oldest customer helped through the scheme was 101, showing how criminals are targeting elderly and vulnerable victims with these scams. The Banking Protocol also ensures that extra support is provided to customers identified through the scheme, to help prevent them from falling victim to similar scams in the future. This can include referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions.
Since March 2018, the scheme has been implemented by all 45 police forces across the UK. 52 payment service providers, including all the main high street banks and the Post Office, are now fully signed up to the Banking Protocol and have trained their front-line branch staff in the steps that need to be taken when a customer is at risk
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, said“By working closely with law enforcement, we are striking a blow against the unscrupulous criminals who prey on elderly and vulnerable customers. These kinds of scams can have a devastating emotional impact on victims and so partnerships like the Banking Protocol are crucial to protect the public and bring those responsible to justice.”
“Intervening early and educating customers to prevent these scams from happening means we can stop money getting into the hands of criminals in the first place. We would therefore urge people to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and be aware that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money and remember that a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to a ‘safe account’ or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Clinton Blackburn, Head of Economic Crime at City of London Police, said “The Banking Protocol demonstrates the opportunity for success which is possible when the police and the private sector work together to protect victims of fraud. We know that you’re more likely to be a victim of fraud than any other type of crime, so there needs to be a whole system change in order to tackle the scourge of fraud, bring perpetrators to justice and reclaim assets for those defrauded.”
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said “Vulnerable victims being frogmarched into banks and building societies to withdraw large sums of cash is something our investigators see all too often. In many cases, the victims have been deliberately targeted by criminals because they are an older person living alone or because they live with a health condition. We’re proud to have played a part in shaping such an effective scheme to help prevent more people falling victim to scams.”