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£32 million of fraud prevented in first half of 2021

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Written by: Christina Hoghton
10/09/2021
Fraudsters have preyed on people's fears during the pandemic, but initiatives to protect consumers are getting positive results

£32 million of fraud has been stopped in the first six months of the year through the Banking Protocol rapid scam response, said UK Finance.

The banking trade body said that the police worked alongside banks, building societies and Post Offices to protect customers through the scheme.

The amount of fraud prevented by the scheme is up 65 per cent compared to the same period last year and brings the total amount of fraud prevented to £174 million since the Banking Protocol was introduced in 2016.

What is the Banking Protocol?

The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, launched by UK Finance, National Trading Standards and local police forces. Branch staff are trained to spot the warning signs that suggest a customer may be falling victim to a scam, before alerting their local police force to intervene and investigate.

It 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. It is also 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 demand cash for unnecessary work on properties.

Customers assisted by the scheme are offered ongoing support to help prevent them from falling victim to scams in the future, including referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions. 

How branch staff helped

One example of the Banking Protocol in action was when woman in her 80s received a telephone call from a man claiming to be from her bank. He claimed there was an issue with the victim’s account and in order to help her with this he needed her to withdraw money (£2000) from her account. The victim was told to go to the bank to withdraw the cash and call back when home for further instructions.

When the victim attended the branch staff told her that this was in fact a scam. The staff refused the withdrawal and invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting local police. Officers attended and offered fraud advice to the victim. The bank also put measures in place to further safeguard the victim from any future frauds.

Branch staff invoked the Banking Protocol 4,782 times between January and June 2021, saving potential victims an average of £6,672 each.

Ultimately the scheme led to the arrest of over 90 suspected criminals, bringing the total number of arrests to 934 since the protocol began.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “Fraud has a devastating impact on victims so partnerships like the Banking Protocol are not only crucial in helping vulnerable people, but it also stops stolen money from going on to fund other illicit activities including drug smuggling, human-trafficking and terrorism.

“Criminals have continued to capitalise on the pandemic to commit fraud, callously targeting victims through impersonation, romance, courier and rogue trader scams. Branch staff and the police are working on the frontline to protect people from fraud and these figures highlight the importance of their work in stopping these cruel scams and bringing the criminals to justice.”

Temporary Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, added: “Criminals have continued to use the pandemic to prey on people’s fear and anxieties in order to steal their money, which is evident through the increase in how much the Banking Protocol has prevented being lost to heartless fraudsters so far this year.

“The Banking Protocol continues to be one of the most vital ways of protecting vulnerable victims and preventing criminals from taking advantage of them, as banks are often the first point of contact when someone is about to fall victim to fraud. It’s also essential the public remain vigilant and follow the Take Five advice before parting with any money or personal details.”

UK Finance is urging customers to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember 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. 

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