UK Banking Protocol system saves potential scam victims £9.1m in first year of operation

Fraudsters have shifted much of their attention from trying to crack bank systems to trying to con individuals.

Seventy-two-year-old Barry Fox is one of hundreds of people saved from scams after bank staff stopped him spending £10,000 on a fictitious Rolls-Royce.

The retired lorry driver went into his Barclays branch intending to withdraw the cash to pay for the luxury car he saw on an internet auction site.

Staff were concerned and used a new system to alert police to the case and, within 30 minutes, officers were there.

They made checks and alerted Mr Fox to the fact he was about to be scammed.

This was one of 1,262 calls made by bank staff to police or trading standards under the Banking Protocol system that should see an officer arrive to offer help within an hour.

UK Finance, which represents the major banks, said this had saved potential victims a combined total of £9.1m in its first year of operation. Individuals had been saved between £99 and £212,000 each.

Mr Fox had received some inheritance and decided to spend it on his dream car.

The seller told him that they would pick him up from a railway station and then travel to a countryside location to pick up the car. He would pay £10,000 in cash. Bank staff said it “didn’t seem right”.

The police officers alerted him to the fact that the car was registered hundreds of miles away. The details of the seller on eBay did not match the business which had the car, so there was no realistic possibility of buying it.

“I might have gone there with £10,000 in my pocket and been knocked over the head with a stick or something,” said Mr Fox.

Mr Fox was simply advised not to take out the money in this case. Eventually he bought another Rolls-Royce being sold legitimately.

In other cases in the last 12 months, 101 arrests have been made after calls were made by concerned bank staff.

The system has been introduced gradually across the country since May and nearly all UK police forces are now signed up.

Katy Worobec, from UK Finance, said: “The finance industry is determined to crack down on fraud and is taking action on all fronts. The protocol is an important weapon in our armoury.”

Other cases of fraud prevention by banks include:

  • A man who was conned into thinking he was being contacted via Facebook by a long-lost girlfriend, who then asked him to turn up at the airport with a parcel of cash to help deal with formalities
  • A woman who was rung by a scammer who claimed her computer had all sorts of problems. He persuaded her to give him online access to her computer and installed malware. Then he made a big apology and promised compensation. He sent too much money and demanded the difference back in cash, but the original payment would have never gone through
  • A man came into the branch asking for thousands of pounds in cash, intending to bury it in the garden so he could get to it quickly when needed. Police explained to him that he could be robbed if information about the stash leaked out and that the banknotes could be ruined

One consumer group said the system should be extended to other types of scam.

Alex Neill, of Which?, said this was a small part of a wider problem. “In the first six months of 2017, more than £100m was lost to bank transfer scams,” she said.

She urged banks to introduce “similarly robust measures” to deal with online scams “where consumers remain vulnerable”.

Anyone worried about fraud can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506. Cases can be reported to Action Fraud.


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