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An anti-fraud scheme used at bank branches, which has been expanded to protect people against online scams, has helped to block £32m worth of attempted fraud in the first six months of this year.
The equivalent period last year saw £19m blocked by what is known as the Banking Protocol.
Under the scheme, bank branch staff are trained to identify customers who are potentially being scammed, and contact the police. These are often vulnerable people who have been contacted online by scammers and come to a bank to take out large sums of money.
In the first six months of this year, more than 4,700 emergency calls were made, protecting customers from losing an average of £6,672 each. A total of 934 arrests have been made since the Banking Protcol was launched.
Last year, UK Finance, which launched the Banking Protocol alongside National Trading Standards and law enforcement, said it was working with police forces to expand the scheme to cover telephone and online banking.
Following this, 36 out of 45 police forces across the UK are signed up to the enhanced scheme and today staff working in call centres and in online banking teams notify the police when attempted bank transfers are being made that they believe may be the result of a scam. The figures released do not include online fraud blocked, but UK Finance hopes this will be included in figures from the end of this year.
Many of the attempted frauds are online impersonation scams, in which a criminal imitates police or bank staff and convinces people to visit their bank and withdraw or transfer large sums of money. The scheme is also used to prevent romance fraud, in which fraudsters use fake online dating profiles to trick victims into transferring money to them.
With banks closing branches and forcing people to use digital channels, the scammers will target vulnerable people online, a trend that has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic, and social distancing rules, have forced more people to bank online, many of them older people new to the channel. This has been the target base for online scammers. The latest police figures shows that the typical customer helped through the Banking Protocol is aged over 65.
Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said “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 front line 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.”
Clinton Blackburn, temporary commander at the City of London Police, said: “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.”
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