A total of £259,067 of fraud in Lancashire was stopped by police and bank branch staff in the first half of 2020 through the Banking Protocol, the latest figures published have revealed.
The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme that enables bank branch staff to alert their local police force when they suspect a customer is being scammed. Police will then visit the branch to investigate the suspected fraud and arrest any suspects still on the scene.
Six arrests were made through the scheme in Lancashire between January and June 2020.
In one case a 55-year-old man, from St Annes, was arrested on suspicion theft after concerns were raised by a bank staff regarding the attempted cash withdrawal attempts by a man in his 70s. He has since been released on bail until December 19.
Branch staff are trained to spot the warning signs that suggest someone may have fallen for one of these scams and make an emergency call to the police.
A total of 64 calls were made in the between the start of January and end of June in Lancashire through the scheme.
A range of scams that trick victims into withdrawing cash from their branch have been prevented through the scheme, including courier scams, romance fraud and rogue traders
National data shows that customers helped through the Banking Protocol are typically aged over 65 while some were over 100 years old, demonstrating how these scams are often targeted towards the elderly and vulnerable.
Those assisted by the scheme are offered ongoing support to help prevent them falling victim to scams in future, including through referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions.
DI Warren Atkinson, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “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.”
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, said: “It is sickening that criminals are preying on elderly and vulnerable victims during this difficult time. Bank branch staff and police on the frontline are doing a heroic job in stopping these cruel scams and helping bring those responsible to justice.
“It’s vital that people always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and 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.”
For advice on how to spot the signs and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, please visit Action Fraud’s website at actionfraud.police.uk.
The Banking Protocol scheme 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. These can include courier scams, where those targeted are persuaded to take out a large sum of cash and hand it over to a fraudster posing as a courier. They can also include safe account scams, where the victims are told their money isn’t safe in the account it’s currently in and needs to be transferred to another account.
The initiative has also been used to prevent romance fraud, in which fraudsters use fake online dating profiles to trick victims into transferring money, and to catch rogue traders who prey on the elderly by demanding cash for unnecessary work on their property.
FRAUD AWARENESS ADVICE
UK Finance has published top tips from the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign on how to stay safe from these scam types. The campaign urges consumers to remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police, and to:
- Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
- Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.