Tackling financial services fraud

Last week, Police Scotland reported that more than £7 million worth of fraudulent transactions had been prevented in Scotland in the last financial year (April 2018 – March 2019) as a result of the Banking Protocol. According to Police Scotland, the Banking Protocol is “a rapid response scheme aimed at preventing bank customers from falling victim to scams”.

Police Scotland also reported that the Protocol had during the current financial year to date stopped 433 members of the public losing more than £2.6 million.

What is the Banking Protocol?

The Banking Protocol was launched in March 2018. It is a joint initiative between the police, banking institutions and Trading Standards which aims to identify victims who are in the process of being defrauded of funds from their bank accounts and to intervene before the fraud is completed.

The Protocol recognises that vulnerable people can be targeted for a range of fraud offences. These offences can involve the perpetrator encouraging the victim to withdraw funds from their bank account or to transfer funds into the hands of the perpetrator.

Under the scheme, bank staff are trained to identify transactions which may be out of character and to ask questions of the customer, with a view to identifying whether the customer may be (or may be about to become) a victim of fraud. Potential out of character transactions could include customers seeking to move large sums of money to a new account, to an overseas account or making unusual transactions while in branch. Bank staff might ask the following questions:

  • What is the money going to be used for?
  • Who are you giving the money to?
  • Was this withdrawal or transaction planned or unexpected?
  • Have you had a call or been approached, claiming you have been a victim of fraud or offered an investment?
  • Have you been contacted by someone claiming they are Police, bank staff or a trader?

If bank staff suspect that the customer is being coerced or that the transaction is as a result of fraud, the transaction is highlighted as potentially fraudulent and the police are contacted. The police will attend at the branch, speak with the customer and investigate.

Following the initial success of the Protocol, the scheme has been extended and now permits telephone banking staff to make an email referral to the police without the customer needing to be in the branch. Officers will then investigate.