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Police and UK banks stopped £45m of fraud in 2020

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Hacker on a laptop.
There were 200 arrests made via the scheme last year. Overall, the scheme has led to 843 arrests since it was launched in 2016. Photo: Getty

UK bank branch workers along with the police have stopped £45m ($62.6m) in fraud in 2020 through the Banking Protocol scheme.

The scheme allows bank employees to alert local police when they suspect customers are being scammed, police will then visit the branch to investigate the suspected fraud.

The initiative has been used to prevent impersonation scams, in which fraudsters pretend to be police or bank staff to convince victims to visit their bank branch to withdraw or transfer a large amount of money.

These can include safe account scams, where customers are persuaded their money isn’t safe in their accounts and encouraged to transfer it to another account. It can also include courier scams, where victims are told to withdraw money from their accounts and hand it over to fraudsters posing as couriers.

There were 200 arrests made via the scheme last year. Overall, the scheme has led to 843 arrests since it was launched in 2016.

It has prevented victims from losing £142m to fraud — an average of £5,749 each — since it was first introduced by UK Finance, National Trading Standards and local police forces.

READ MORE: Hacking; 2.6 million unlikely to take action following data breach

Bank branch employees are trained to spot the signs of fraud that suggest customers may have fallen victim to one of these scams and make emergency calls to the police. The Banking Protocol was invoked 7,879 times in 2020 alone.

Police data shows that fraudsters target the elderly, with customers aged over 65 and some even over the age of 100 being the most susceptible to these scams.

Managing director of economic crime, UK Finance, Katy Worobec, said: "The Banking Protocol demonstrates the success of close collaboration between the banking and finance industry and the police in helping vulnerable victims, stopping fraud from happening in the first place and bringing the criminals responsible for fraud to justice."

Worobec warned customers on the changing habits of criminals. "As criminals have adapted their techniques to commit fraud, the industry is rolling out an enhanced scheme to ensure customers banking via the telephone or online, as well as in branch, are protected from fraud."

People are encouraged to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and “remember that banks will never ask you” to “transfer funds or withdraw cash” to another account or hand over to them for safe keeping.

Those helped through the scheme receive ongoing support, including referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions, to prevent them falling victim to scams in the future.

The scheme could be expanded to online and telephone banking so that call centre bank staff can notify the police when they suspect fraud in situations where the victim is unable to visit their bank branch to enable further checks.

"So far, 24 police forces across the UK — over half of all forces — are signed up to the enhanced scheme, which has been particularly important for vulnerable customers who are unable to visit their local branch, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic," UK Finance said.

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