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UK banks and police stopped £19m of fraud in first half of 2020

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
Police data shows customers aged over 65 and some even over the age of 100 are most susceptible to these scams. Photo: Getty
Police data shows customers aged over 65 and some even over the age of 100 are most susceptible to these scams. Photo: Getty

UK bank branch workers along with the police have stopped £19.3m ($25.3m) in fraud in the first six months of 2020 through the Banking Protocol scheme.

The scheme allows bank employees to alert their local police force 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.

So far, over 100 arrests have been made via the scheme between January and June 2020.

Overall, the scheme has led to 744 arrests and prevented victims from losing £116m to fraud, since it was first introduced three years ago by UK Finance, National Trading Standards and local police forces.

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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.

In total, bank staff have made 3,250 calls to the police, with 637 calls in June 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: “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.”

Worobec also encourages people 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.

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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.

“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,” commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, the lead force for fraud, said.