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Banking Protocol scam response hailed

Branch staff at banks, building societies and Post Offices worked with the police to stop £32m of fraud through the Banking scam response in the first half of this year, according to the latest figures from the trade body UK Finance. This is up 65 per cent compared to the same period last year and brings the total amount of fraud prevented to £174m, since the scheme began in 2016.

The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, launched 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. Branch staff invoked the Protocol 4,782 times between January and June, saving potential victims an average of £6,672 each. Ultimately the scheme led to the arrest of over 90 suspected criminals, bringing the total number of arrests to 934 since the protocol began.

It is often used to prevent impersonation scams, whereby criminals imitate police or bank staff and convince people to visit their bank and withdraw or transfer large sums. Or it’s used to prevent romance fraud, when fraudsters use fake online dating profiles to trick victims into transferring money; or to catch traders who demand cash for unnecessary work on properties.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, said : “Fraud has a devastating impact on victims so partnerships like the Banking Protocol are not only crucial in helping vulnerable people, but it also stops stolen money from going on to fund other illicit activities including drug smuggling, human-trafficking and terrorism.

“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 frontline 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.

“It’s important 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.”

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Steve Ritter, CTO at the digital identity verification product company Mitek, said: “Sometimes, it’s hard to spot a scam even for experienced professionals. Sadly, less than half of all bank transfer victims get their money back according to a study by Which?. The good news is, major banks are now proactively warning customers that legitimate employees would never ask them to transfer funds to a different account.

“However, in most cases, industry experts are quick to blame consumers for “falling” for scams – but this blame game needs to stop. The onus should now be on technology and finance organisations to step up to the challenge.

“Often, you might not notice a dubious link, or the unknown number it’s sent from – but your phone, messaging service, or network could. A simple flag (‘This link could be fraudulent’) would go a long way to protecting consumers. And all it takes is AI and machine learning algorithms that are trained to spot scams before they reach the consumer.

“In the future, technologies like behavioural biometrics could be used to track fraudsters’ behaviour and movements around the web, to build a digital footprint of their activity and figure out if they’re really who they say they are. For now, we have to rely on the tools we already have at our disposal – and use them to stamp out scams before they hit our inboxes.”


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