Bank branch staff across the United Kingdom worked with the police to stop more than £19m 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.
Some £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 £116m 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.
Focus on interpersonal scams
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.
Recognising warning signs of a swindle
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, commented:
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.”
Ongoing talks aim to broaden the scheme
To build on the success of the scheme, discussions are currently underway with local police forces over expanding it to cover attempted bank transfers made by customers through telephone and online banking.
This would enable bank staff at call centres to notify police when certain attempted bank transfers are being made which they believe may be the result of a scam, in situations where the customer is unable to visit their local branch to enable further checks.