Over £2million worth of fraud – often targeting vulnerable and elderly customers – was prevented in Sussex through the Banking Protocol last year, a UK-wide scheme that enables bank branch staff to spot potential fraud victims and request an immediate police response.

Police and staff working in bank, building society and post office branches stopped £2,033,772.00 of fraud in Sussex through the Banking Protocol in 2020.

The latest figures show 396 emergency calls have been made through the rapid response scheme to Sussex Police since its launch. The initiative has led to the arrest of 47 suspected fraudsters in the region. 

Launched in 2016, the Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, developed in partnership between UK Finance, local police forces and National Trading Standards. 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 suspected fraud. 

The Banking Protocol scheme is used to prevent a variety of different crimes, including romance, impersonation, courier, and rogue trader scams. 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 protocol has formed an important part of Operation Signature, Sussex Police’s campaign to identify and support vulnerable victims of fraud.

PC Bernadette Lawrie, Surrey and Sussex Police Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer, said: “The Banking Protocol is a crucial scheme that helps stop fraudsters in their tracks, assisting police in identifying criminals and vulnerable victims. It means we can give individuals the necessary prevention advice to make sure they don’t lose out on their cash by falling victim to these awful scams.”

An 84-year-old man from West Sussex nearly lost £15,000 after receiving a call from someone claiming to be from his bank. The caller explained that the bank were investigating some suspicious transactions coming out of the victim’s bank account for Amazon purchases.

The victim confirmed he does not use Amazon so found this strange. The caller instructed the victim to attend the branch and transfer his money to a ‘safe’ account whilst the bank continued to investigate. The victim was given the account details to transfer to and was instructed to not tell any bank staff about the conversation. The victim thought this was strange but felt the caller was genuine as he claimed to be from the bank.

The victim attended the branch requesting to transfer £15,000 in funds. Staff had concerns for the victim, refused the transactions and called Sussex Police.

Police officers attended the branch and spoke with the victim where it was confirmed he had fallen victim to a scam. Thankfully the bank’s actions meant no money was lost and the victim received the appropriate safeguarding.

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

“The Banking Protocol demonstrates the success of close collaboration between the banking and finance industry and the police in helping vulnerable victims, stopping fraud from happening in the first place and bringing the criminals responsible for fraud to justice. 

“Partnerships like the Banking Protocol are crucial, not only for the potential victims of this crime, but to stop money going on to fund organised crime and terrorism with devastating consequences. As criminals have adapted their techniques to commit fraud, the industry is rolling out an enhanced scheme to ensure customers banking via the telephone or online, as well as in branch, are protected from fraud.  

“It’s vital that people always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and be aware that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money, and remember that a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to a ‘safe account’ or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.”  

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.

If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website or on the back of your debit or credit card. Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. Where the victim is vulnerable, report to Sussex Police online or by calling 101.