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Sharp-eyed bank staff prevent fraudsters stealing nearly £1m

Sharp-eyed bank staff have stopped fraudsters stealing nearly £1 million from Worcestershire people so far this year.

And their suspicions that a scam was taking place have also led to five conmen being caught.

West Mercia Police has revealed that thanks to the bank employees in the first half of 2021 around £880,000 was stopped from falling into the hands of crooks.

READ MORE: Romance fraudster conned woman out of thousands of pounds

All the employees worked for banks, building societies and Post Offices who are part of the Banking Protocol scheme.

This was set up in partnership with police and sees branch staff being trained to spot the warning signs that a customer may be falling victim to a scam and they alert police who will intervene and investigate.

Since it was launched five years ago, it has prevented £174 million of fraud and led to 934 arrests across the UK.

In the West Mercia area, branch staff have raised the alarm via the Banking Protocol scheme 111 times between January and June of this year, saving potential victims an average of £7,000 and £880,000 in total. Five people have been arrested and prosecuted.

The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, launched by UK Finance, National Trading Standards and local police forces.

Its most common use is to prevent impersonation scams – in which criminals pretend to be police or bank staff and convince people to visit their bank and withdraw or transfer large sums of money.

It is also used to prevent romance fraud, in which fraudsters use fake online dating profiles to trick victims into transferring money, and to catch rogue traders who demand cash for unnecessary work on properties.

Detective Sergeant Jon Cooper, from the West Mercia Police Economic Crime Unit said fraud was the type of crime the public are most likely to fall victim to.

“Bank branch staff are trained to spot the warning signs that suggest a customer may be falling victim to a scam,” he said.

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“The staff member can then invoke the Banking Protocol, leading the local police to send a priority response to the branch to investigate the suspected fraud and arrest any suspects still on the scene.”

He said the majority of victims were elderly and vulnerable people – and urged people to look out for elderly friends, relatives or neighbours.

“Please remember that the police will never contact you to discuss your money, bank accounts or ask you to withdraw money and give it to a courier,” he said.

Since August the scheme has now been extended to cover attempted bank transfers made by customers through telephone and online banking, as well as going into banks to withdraw cash in person.

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