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Fraud has a devastating emotional impact on victims. The money stolen not only supports the criminals responsible, but can go on to fund organised crime and terrorism which damages our society. It's why schemes such as the Banking Protocol are so important, as it stops fraud from happening in the first place.
Last year, staff working in bank, building society and post office branches joined with the police to prevent customers from losing more than £45 million of fraud through the Banking Protocol. Under this rapid scam response scheme, branch staff are trained to detect the warning signs that someone is being scammed and to make an emergency call to the police. Police officers will then visit the branch to investigate the suspected fraud and arrest any suspects still on the scene.
The scheme has now prevented £142 million of fraud since it was launched in 2016, according to the latest figures published today by UK Finance.. This close collaborative work between the police and branch staff led to the arrest of 200 suspected criminals during 2020, bringing the total number of arrests to 843 since the scheme began. The criminals arrested included rogue traders that demanded cash for unnecessary work on people's property, and individuals that persuaded their victims to take out large sums of cash to hand it over to someone posing as a courier. Others impersonated the police, government or banks, or created fake dating profiles in an attempt to steal personal and financial information from innocent victims to commit fraud.
Banks and building societies are now working with law enforcement to build on the success of the scheme and to expand it to cover telephone and online banking. This enables staff working in call centres and in online banking teams to notify the police when customers attempt to make bank transfers which they believe may be the result of a scam. So far, 24 police forces across the UK - over half of all forces - are signed up to the enhanced scheme, which has been particularly important for vulnerable customers who are unable to visit their local branch, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. In this instance where the customer is not able to attend their branch, staff are 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.?
We are collaborating with our members to see how the enhanced scheme can be rolled out more widely. While the banking industry and police will continue to do everything they can to protect customers from scams and crack down on the criminals responsible, it's also crucial that people remain vigilant against scams. Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police, so we urge the public to always follow the advice of the?Take Five to Stop Fraud?campaign: 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. Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information, and challenge requests for your personal or financial information. It's okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. If you think you?ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud, or Police Scotland if you are in Scotland.
Christine Farrow, Principal, Payment Scheme Fraud Prevention Lead, UK Finance
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