2nd March 2021

UK finance industry and police team up to stop over £45m of fraud in 2020

UK branch staff at banks, building societies and Post Offices worked with the police to stop £45.m of fraud through the Banking Protocol rapid scam response last year, bringing the total amount of fraud prevented to £142m since the beginning of the scheme, according to the latest figures from UK Finance.

Launched in 2016, the Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, developed in partnership between UK Finance, local police forces and National Trading Standards. 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 the suspected fraud.

Last year the Banking Protocol was invoked 7,879 times, saving potential victims an average of £5,749 each. The scheme led to the arrest of 200 suspected criminals. The latest figures, covering fraud prevented through alerts made by branch staff, mean there have been a total of 843 arrests since the protocol began.

The Banking Protocol scheme is used to prevent a variety of different crimes, including romance, impersonation, courier, and rogue trader scams. 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.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, comments “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.
Partnerships like the Banking Protocol are crucial, not only for the potential victims of this crime, but to stop money going on to fund organised crime and terrorism with devastating consequences. 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.

It’s vital that people always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and be aware that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money, and remember that a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to a ‘safe account’ or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.”

To build on the success of the scheme, banks and building societies are working with local police forces on expanding it to cover attempted bank transfers made by customers through telephone and online banking. 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 pandemic. Staff working in call centres and in online banking teams notify the police when attempted bank transfers are being made which they believe may be the result of a scam. UK Finance is working with its members to see how the enhanced scheme can be rolled out more widely.

T/Commmander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police-the National Lead Force for fraud-added “The Banking Protocol is a fantastic initiative which demonstrates just how effective a whole-system approach to fighting fraud can be. The systems in place allow us to stop people becoming victims of fraud at the point of transfer, and also catch criminals red-handed.

We’re delighted to the see the scheme going from strength to strength and look forward to more people being protected as the initiative rolls out across telephone and online banking services."

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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