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Bank fraud prevention scheme blocked £60m in fraud last year

Scheme to catch fraudsters, including online scammers, before they commit their crimes has reported a significant increase in crimes prevented

A bank branch-based scheme designed to protect vulnerable people against banking fraud, including online scams, blocked £60m worth of fraud in 2021 – 34% higher than in the previous year.

Under the scheme, known as the Banking Protocol, 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. Last year, about 10,000 calls were made to police by suspicious bank branch staff and 162 arrests were made.

Since the scheme began in 2016, banks have worked with police to prevent more than £200m in fraud, with just over 1,000 arrests made. But last year was the first time the scheme had included online scams after discussions with local police forces in 2020 about expanding it to cover attempted bank transfers made by customers through telephone and online banking.

The latest figures show that branch staff made 10,072 Banking Protocol calls to the police during 2021. The scheme led to the arrest of 162 suspected criminals last year, bringing the total number of arrests to 1,005 since the scheme began, after 34,000 calls were made to police by branch staff.

“The Banking Protocol 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,” said UK Finance.

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.  

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “The Banking Protocol has helped to prevent tens of thousands of people from becoming victims of fraud. Its success shows the importance of joint work between the police and banking industry, not only to protect customers, but also to tackle the criminals behind these scams.

“Bank staff are trained to spot scams and, as part of the scheme, will assist customers by asking various questions when they are withdrawing or transferring money, to help keep them safe.”

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