Bank branch staff foil £19 million in frauds

Bank staff across the country working with the police foiled scams valued at £19 million in the first half of the year.

Trade body UK Finance revealed that specially trained staff working on a scheme known as the Banking Protocol had also been instrumental in more than 100 con men being arrested.

Prevented

Introduced three years ago the Protocol has prevented more than £116 million of fraud and been responsible for 744 arrests.

Bank workers are trained to spot potential cases, quiz customers and contact police while customers are in the branch requesting withdrawals which raise suspicions of a possible scam.

Targeted

Most people targeted by the fraudsters are over 65 – with some over 100 – some have been persuaded that they should take out a large volume of cash to be handed over to a ‘courier’.

The tricks played by the criminals are endless. One woman received two phone calls from a man claiming he was from the ‘fraud squad’.

She was asked to transfer money into a special account to allow them to trace her stolen money.

The £4,700 transaction was stopped by counter staff.

Oil rig

Another potential victim was persuaded by a fraudster to send money to ‘a friend’ on an oil rig because the criminal had no internet connection. The money was to be ‘paid back later’.

The woman was convinced the story was true, but police were called and the transaction stopped.

Pandemic lockdown

The loneliness created by the pandemic lockdown has also been exploited with a number of ‘romance scams’ with scammers using fake dating site profiles to trick their ‘marks’ into sending them money.

The authorities believe many of these crimes have gone unreported.

Sickening

UK Finance managing director of economic crime, Katy Worobec, said: “It is sickening that criminals are preying on elderly and vulnerable victims during this difficult time.

Bank branch staff on the front line are doing a heroic job in stopping these cruel scams and helping bring those responsible to justice.

“It’s vital that people will 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.”

Concern

There is concern that with numbers of bank branches closing down the elderly might become more vulnerable to internet banking frauds.

The banks are now working with the police to extend the Protocol to cover telephone and online banking with the possibility that officers might visit the homes of potential victims whose activity has been highlighted as a possible scam.

Police Commander Clinton Blackburn added: “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.”