Branch-based anti-fraud scheme to be expanded to online banking

An anti-fraud scheme used in bank branches to spot potential scams is being expanded to cover online and telephone banking, following its success.

The Banking Protocol is a scheme that trains banking staff to spot the warning signs when people are being scammed so they can alert the police.

According to figures from industry body UK Finance, it stopped £19m worth of potential fraud in the first six months of 2020. In total, the scheme has prevented victims from losing £116m of fraud and led to 744 arrests since it was introduced three years ago. 

The Banking Protocol was developed by UK Finance, National Trading Standards and law enforcement. After a trial by the London Metropolitan Police in October 2017, it was rolled out to all police forces of the UK in March 2018.

UK Finance said the scheme doesn’t end when a scam has been prevented, adding: “It also ensures extra support is provided to those customers affected to help prevent them falling victim to similar scams in the future, including through referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions.” 

It will now be expanded to include online and telephone banking.

Katy Worobec, managing director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said bank branch staff on the frontline are doing a heroic job in stopping these cruel scams and helping bring those responsible to justice. 

“The banking industry is now working with police forces to expand this scheme to telephone and online banking, with a focus on protecting vulnerable customers,” she added.

UK Finance said discussions are underway with local police forces over expanding it to cover attempted bank transfers made by customers through telephone and online banking.

“This would enable bank staff at call centres to notify police when certain attempted bank transfers are being made which they believe may be the result of a scam, in situations where the customer is unable to visit their local branch to enable further checks,” it said.

With banks closing branches and forcing people to use digital channels, the scammers will target vulnerable people online.

Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic leading to more people banking online means there are more targets for scammers, many of which will be online banking users for the first time. Police figures shows that customers helped through the Banking Protocol are typically aged over 65.

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