UK financial sector stops £32m fraud in 2021

Branch staff at banks, building societies, and Post Offices worked with the police to stop £32 million worth of fraud through the Banking Protocol rapid scam response in the first half of the year.

The latest figures from UK Finance, which represents around 300 firms across UK financial industry, found that numbers were up 65 per cent compared to the same period last year. This brings the total amount of fraud prevented to £174 million since the scheme was introduced in 2016.

The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide initiative, 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.

“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,” said Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime, UK Finance. “Criminals have continued to capitalise on the pandemic to commit fraud, callously targeting victims through impersonation, romance, courier and rogue trader scams.”

Worobec added: “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.”

Over 4,700 emergency calls were made between January and June 2021, protecting customers from losing an average of £6,672 each to criminals.

Use of the scheme has led to 934 arrests since its launch in 2016.

Cases of attempted fraud in the first-half of the year included a woman who tried to send an online payment of £2500 to a friend in the USA she had previously worked with in the UK. When the payment was blocked, she visited her local bank branch and said she had been exchanging messages with this friend on a social media platform and that they had asked for the money to pay their hospital fees. Staff invoked the Banking Protocol, and the local police attended the branch, with no money lost in the scam.

On another occasion a woman in her 80s received a telephone call from a male claiming to be from her bank. The man 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 attend the bank to do so and call back when home for further instructions. The victim attended the branch and staff confirmed to the victim that this man had not been in contact with them, and it was in fact a scam. The staff refused the withdrawal and invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting local police.

“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,” said temporary commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police. “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.”

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