UK Finance: Over £200 million of fraud stopped by rapid scam response scheme

Branch staff at banks, building societies and Post Offices have worked with the police to stop £202.8 million of fraud through the Banking Protocol rapid scam response scheme since it launched in 2016, according to the latest figures from UK Finance. Last year £60.7 million was stopped through the scheme, 34 per cent more than in 2020.

The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, developed 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.

The latest figures, detailed in the table below, 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 protocol began.

Customers assisted by the scheme are offered ongoing support to help prevent them from falling victim to scams in the future, including referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions. 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. It is also 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 demand cash for unnecessary work on properties.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, commented: “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.

“Criminals are always changing their tactics so it’s important to 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.”

Temporary Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, said: “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.

“Partnership working across the finance sector is crucial in protecting people against fraud. It is great to see that the Banking Protocol is working so well and has prevented such significant loses to fraud since its inception in 2016.”

To build on the success of the scheme, banks and building societies are continuing to work with local police forces on expanding the process to cover attempted bank transfers made by customers through telephone and online banking. So far, 42 out of 45 police forces across the UK are signed up to the enhanced scheme. Staff working in call centres and in online banking teams notify the police when attempted bank transfers are being made which they believe may be the result of a scam. Customers using telephone or online banking are first asked by the bank or building society to visit their local branch to enable branch staff to carry out additional checks and use the Banking Protocol if necessary. However, if the customer is unable to visit their branch, for example if they are vulnerable or have a disability, staff would be able to directly alert the local police who will make a visit to the customer’s home and assess whether they have fallen victim to a scam.