Bank branch staff and police team up to stop £19 million of fraud in first half of 2020

  • Bank branch staff stopped £19 million of fraud in the first half of 2020 through the Banking Protocol, a scheme that alerts local police to suspected scams.
  • The scheme has prevented victims from losing £116 million of fraud and led to 744 arrests since it was introduced three years ago.
  • A range of scams that trick elderly and vulnerable customers into withdrawing cash from their branch have been prevented, including courier scams, romance fraud and rogue traders.
  • Customers helped through the initiative are typically aged 65 or above, with some over 100 years old.
  • The Banking Protocol scheme is now being expanded to telephone and online banking.

Bank branch staff worked with the police to stop £19 million of fraud in the first half of 2020 through the Banking Protocol, according to the latest figures from UK Finance.1

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.

£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 £116 million 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.2

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. UK Finance has today published top tips from the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign on how to stay safe from these scam types.4

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.

 “It’s vital that people always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember that 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.”

T/Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, the lead force for fraud, said:

“Banks are often the first point of contact when someone is about to fall victim to fraud, so the banking protocol is a vital way of protecting vulnerable victims and preventing criminals from taking advantage of them.

“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.”

Those assisted by the scheme are offered ongoing support to help prevent them falling victim to scams in future, including through referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions. In the first six months of this year, 1,149 potentially vulnerable adults were identified after bank branch staff alerted the police to suspected scams through 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.

Ends

For more information please call the UK Finance press office on 020 7416 6750 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editor

1. Figures are based on data provided to UK Finance by all 45 police forces across the UK participating in the Banking Protocol scheme. Case studies on use of the Banking Protocol are available on request.

2. The Banking Protocol was developed in partnership between UK Finance, National Trading Standards and law enforcement. It was first trialled by the London Metropolitan Police in October 2017 and has been operational across all police forces of the UK since March 2018. 52 payment service providers, including all the main high street banks and the Post Office, are now fully signed up to the scheme and have trained their front-line branch staff in the steps that need to be taken when a customer is at risk. It forms part of a range of measures introduced by the banking and finance industry to protect customers from fraud and scams, including:

• Investing in advanced security systems to protect customers, including real-time transaction analysis, behavioural biometrics on devices and technology to identify the different sound tones that every phone has and the environment that they are in.

• Working closely with the government and law enforcement to tackle fraud through a national Economic Crime Plan, including regularly exchanging information and coordinating responses to emerging threats such as scams linked to Covid-19.

• Helping customers stay safe from fraud and spot the signs of a scam through the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign. 27 major banks and buildings societies have signed up to the new Take Five Charter, bringing the industry together to give people simple and consistent fraud awareness advice.

  • Sponsoring a specialist police unit, the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), which tackles the organised criminal groups responsible for financial fraud and scams. In 2019, the unit prevented an estimated £31 million of fraud, secured 75 convictions and disrupted 23 organised crime groups.
  • Introducing a voluntary code to better protect customers and reduce the occurrence of authorised push payment (APP) fraud. The code became effective for signatory firms on 28 May 2019.

3. The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges consumers to remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police

  •  Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

ROMANCE SCAMS

WHAT IS IT?

You’re convinced to make a payment to a person you’ve met either through social media or on a dating website. Fake profiles are used by criminals in an attempt to build a relationship with you – this is often known as catfishing. Criminals use information found on social media to create fake identities to target you with a scam, looking for profiles that say you’re ‘widowed’ or ‘divorced’.

HOW TO SPOT A ROMANCE SCAM?

  • You’ve met someone online and they declare strong feelings for you after a few conversations
  • They suggest moving the conversation away from the dating website or social media to a more private channel such as email, phone or instant messaging
  • Their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page isn’t consistent with what they tell you
  • There are spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and they make claims such as their camera isn’t working
  • They refuse to Skype, or video call/meet you in person
  • Photos generally tend to be stolen from other people

ALWAYS REMEMBER

  • Avoid sending money to someone you’ve never met in person
  • Research the person you’re talking to as profile photos may not be genuine
  • Be alert to spelling and grammar mistakes and inconsistencies in stories
  • Stay on the dating site or on the messaging service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are and meetings in person take place in public
  • Always consider the possibility of a scam
  • Only accept friend requests from people you know and trust

ROGUE TRADER SCAMS

WHAT IS IT:

A cold-caller may offer you a service you don’t really need. They may claim to have noticed something about your property that needs work or improvement, such as the roof, and offer to fix it for cash or an inflated price.

HOW TO SPOT A ROGUE TRADER/DOORSTEP SCAM

  • Someone knocks on your door that you weren’t expecting warning that there’s a problem with your roof or driveway that needs to be fixed without delay
  • You’re asked to make a payment upfront in order for work to be carried out
  • You’re convinced to go to your bank branch and withdraw money whilst they set up
  • Additional problems are identified for which additional money is needed immediately

ALWAYS REMEMBER

  • Never disclose your PIN or let anyone persuade you to hand over your bank card, financial information or withdraw cash.
  • Don’t feel pressured. Don’t agree to hand over money at the door. Take time to think about it and talk to someone you trust.
  • Only let someone in if you’re expecting them or they’re a trusted friend, family member or professional. Don’t feel embarrassed about turning someone away.
  • Check their credentials. You should always check someone’s credentials – a genuine person won’t mind. You can phone the company they represent or check online, but never used contact details they give you.
  • Take the time to think about any offer, even if it’s genuine. Don’t be embarrassed to say ‘No’ or ask them to leave.
  • Call 999 if you feel threatened or in danger. Call the police non-emergency number 101 if you’re not in immediate danger but want to report an incident.

COURIER FRAUD

WHAT IS IT?

You’re contacted by phone from someone purporting to be a police officer or someone from your bank. The caller might be able to confirm some easily obtainable information about you such as your full name and address.

They may offer a phone number for you to call which in some cases matches the number on the back of your bank card to give the impression that the call is genuine. The number offered is not genuine or, where a genuine number is suggested, the criminal will keep the line open and pass you to a different individual in order to validate the scam.

If the caller is from a bank, they may say their systems have spotted a fraudulent payment on your card or it is due to expire and needs to be replaced.

They may try to offer you peace of mind by having somebody pick up your card to save you the trouble of having to go to your bank or local police station.

They may offer to send a courier to collect your bank card and ask you to write down your PIN and place it in a separate envelope that that you of your card.

HOW TO SPOT A COURIER SCAM

  • You’re convinced to co-operate in an investigation by attending your bank and withdrawing money to hand over to a police officer/courier which will be returned once the investigation is complete.
  • You’re convinced to withdraw foreign currency from an exchange to aid an investigation with a promise of reimbursement.
  • You’re told to purchase expensive items that you’ll be asked to hand to a courier for examination with a promise of a reimbursement once the investigation is complete.
  • You’ll be told that some money has been removed from your bank account and that corrupt staff at your local bank branch are responsible.
  • You’re advised that someone at the branch has already been arrested but the “police” need you to withdraw your money for evidence.
  • You’re told that a business, such as a jeweller or currency exchange, is operating fraudulently and they require assistance to help secure evidence.

ALWAYS REMEMBER

  • Your bank or the police will never call you to ask you to verify your personal details or PIN by phone or offer to pick up your card by courier. Hang up, wait a few minutes and call your bank on a number you know to be genuine, such as the one on the back of your card.
  • The police will not contact you out of the blue to participate in an investigation in which you need to withdraw money from your bank or to purchase high value goods for safe keeping.
  • Your bank will never send a courier to your home to collect your card and PIN therefore any requests to do so are a scam.

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