A NEW partnership between local banks and Dorset Police has prevented over £330,000 getting into the hands of fraudsters in the first four months of this year.
The scheme, known as the ‘banking protocol’, trains bank staff to spot when someone is about to fall victim to a scam and try to prevent them from withdrawing cash or transferring money to a fraudster, with an immediate police response to the bank.
Dorset Police responded to 34 calls between January and April this year where £331,682 of potential victims’ money could have been handed over to fraudsters. The average age of those people targeted was 75 years old, with 56 per cent being men.
The oldest person to have been targeted was a 96-year-old man from Bournemouth who was visited by a fraudster in his home, known as ‘Mike’. The victim was asked to give the fraudster £2,000 in order to receive £12,000 in return.
Upon visiting the bank on his own to withdraw the money, staff raised the alarm with Dorset Police and the transaction was prevented.
In another incident, a woman in her late 80s from Dorset was targeted when fraudsters, claiming to be from BT, called to say her internet had been hacked and they needed to access her computer remotely.
Once accessed, the victim was told not to tell anyone about it as the fraudsters were from the ‘Against Crime Agency’ and were trying to catch the hackers targeting her computer.
The fraudsters claimed they needed her help and said they had placed £10,000 into her current account to trace the hackers. It later transpired that the additional £10,000 in her current account had been transferred from her ISA account, without her knowing. Fraudsters then asked her to transfer £8,000 into an overseas account, which was blocked as a result of the banking protocol.
The victim said: “You never realise how easily you can be drawn into a scam. Even when the police were there in the bank trying to prevent the transaction, I continued to lie about the situation and told the story the fraudsters had given me.
“When I got home and thought about what I was doing, I took a chance on ignoring the hackers and called the police back to explain everything.
“The support I received from Dorset Police was superb. The police officer was gentle, reassuring and comforting and didn’t blame me for my actions. Fortunately, I only lost a small amount of money through a Western Union transfer, rather than the thousands they were trying to get out of me.
“Although you may be concerned about a message that has come through on your computer, don’t believe anybody about anything. Always report to the police if you think you could be being scammed.”
Inspector Phil Swanton, responsible for fraud investigation within Dorset Police, said: “We recognise this type of criminality has a significant impact on victims.
“With fraudsters hiding behind computer screens around the world, bringing offenders to justice is incredibly challenging and therefore we’re doing all we can to prevent these offences happening in the first place.
“The banking protocol is a great example of partnership working between the major banks and Dorset Police to protect our residents.”
Katy Worobec, managing director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, said: “This rapid response scheme is giving bank staff the tools they need to protect vulnerable customers from scams, while helping local police catch fraudsters and bring them to justice.
“The banking industry will keep taking action on all fronts to combat fraud, working closely with our partners in law enforcement to crack down on the criminal gangs responsible.”