An innovative scheme, the Banking Protocol, has thwarted £820,000 of financial fraud in Devon and Cornwall in just four months of operation.
The Banking Protocol is a unique partnership with financial organisations, police and Trading Standards working together to prevent financial scams taking place and to provide the victim with victim care. The Post Office is also part of the Protocol.
The key element of the ground-breaking scheme is that local bank or building society branch staff can alert police to suspected scams taking place by calling 999, allowing local police officers to arrive at the branch before any transfer of funds takes place and to provide local support for the victim.
Inspector John Shuttleworth, who is a Force Incident manager in the Devon and Cornwall Police contact centre, has been instrumental in embedding the banking protocol in the force.
He says: “The Banking Protocol is a unique partnership between the police, financial services and Trading Standards and is highly effective at combating phone, doorstep and online scams as shown by the exceptional level of interventions in Devon and Cornwall so far.
“Scams such as this cause devastating financial and emotional harm to people. The Banking Protocol combines both prevention and support functions by enabling quick personal contact with victims so that we can stop the scam going through and then support them. The build up to frauds like this by the scammers can be extremely distressing. Indeed, that is the way these pernicious scams are designed to work.”
Nationally the Protocol has stopped more than £9 million of potential fraud in first year of operation figures from UK Finance show.
The Banking Protocol was launched last October with a pilot in London before a national rollout began in May. Devon and Cornwall Police launched the scheme in July. It is now in place in 43 police forces across the country.
Gary Webster from Cornwall Council Trading Standards Service commented: “We fully support the Banking Protocol initiative and hope that it leads to increased protection for those vulnerable members of our communities who have been heartlessly targeted by rogue traders and scammers.
“Alerts raised by bank staff in the past have provided significant help in disrupting this kind of criminal activity. We continue to work closely with our partners in the police to ensure that these incidents are responded to effectively and that consumers are protected from financial exploitation.”
Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Officer Alex Rowe said: “The introduction of the National Banking Protocol has provided Trading Standards with valuable opportunities to work jointly with the banking sector and the police in tackling the rogue traders that seek to target the most vulnerable members of our communities.
“The fact that information about these crimes can come to enforcement authorities while a potential fraud victim is with the banking staff enables us to ensure that the victim can keep their money while we obtain information about the incident and also to share alerts with the public about possible rogue traders in their area.”
Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly said:
“Fraud is now the most prevalent crime in the country. Criminals are preying on vulnerable and elderly people to defraud them out of what can sometimes be tens of thousands of pounds. This is happening in our communities right now and we must do more to stop it.
“The Banking protocol is one such step and I applaud this initiative between the police, Trading Standards and the financial sector which has already prevented a number of people in Devon and Cornwall from becoming victims.
“The public can learn more on how to prevent themselves, their family and friends becoming victims of fraud and scams, by signing up to the excellent ‘Friends against scams’ campaign being run by National Trading Standards www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said:
“Fraud can have a devastating effect on some of the most susceptible people in society and it’s by working together with law enforcement, and others, that we can make a real difference when it matters most. The Banking Protocol is a great example of this collaboration in action protecting people from becoming victims. 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.”