Category: Banks and Finance

Surrey Use The Banking Protocol

Surrey Police and local industries stop £2 million of fraud by using the Banking Protocol scheme.

Surrey Police worked with branch staff at local banks, building societies and Post Offices to stop £740,000 worth of fraud through the Banking Protocol rapid scam response in 2020.

Launched in 2016, the Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, developed in partnership between UK Finance, local police forces and National Trading Standards. The protocol oversaw the training of branch staff to spot the warning signs that suggest a customer may be falling victim to a scam, before alerting their local police force to intervene and investigate the suspected fraud.

In 2020, the Banking Protocol was invoked 164 times in Surrey and there have been 20 arrests in the county and £2 million saved since the protocol began.

The banking industry is working with law enforcement to build on this success and expand the scheme to telephone and online banking. These proposals would deliver a police response to the homes of vulnerable victims who have attempted to make a payment via online or telephone banking that has been flagged as potentially being part of a scam.

Customers would first be asked by the bank to visit their local branch to complete the transaction, enabling branch staff to carry out additional checks and use the Banking Protocol if necessary. If the customer is unable to visit their bank branch, for example if they are vulnerable or have a disability, staff would be able to directly alert the local police who will make a visit to the customer’s home and assess whether they have fallen victim to a scam.

An Example from The Police

This is what happened to a 47-year-old man in Surrey recently:

The man was approached by two men on his doorstep offering to clear his gutters. The man declined this service and the men left.

The following day, the man was approached by the same two men from the day before, claiming they had cleared his gutters and required payment of £2,000. The victim offered to pay by cheque but they refused and demanded cash.

The man visited his bank branch to withdraw £2,000 in cash. Bank staff were concerned that a scam may be taking place, so refused the withdrawal and called police, evoking the Banking Protocol.

A police officer attended the branch and spoke with the man, confirming he had been the victim of a scam. Thankfully, the bank’s actions meant that no money was lost and the victim received the appropriate safeguarding.

Well done the Police and the banks.

If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.

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Amateur Detective Recovers Scammed Money

Gideon Roseman was scammed out of a lot of money. He had builders working on his home and fraudsters hacked in to the builder’s email system. They sent a message to Roseman purporting to the builder asking for a down payment to start work. Roseman paid £20,400 to what he though was the account of his builder.

The next day his wife Esther found an email from the builder warning his customers that his email had been hacked and Roseman realised his payment had gone to the hackers.

The builder had checked his emails and found messages to a number of customers demanding payment to a bank account he did not recognise.

Roseman said  “I wasn’t filled with optimism when I spoke to my bank, so I felt as though the only way I would get my money back is to take things into my own hands.”. He is a barrister so had a head start over most of us in dealing with the legal system.

He travelled to London to the High Court to apply for the fraudster’s bank account to be frozen.

The judge agreed it appeared he had been the victim of fraud and granted the order.

Mr Roseman then contacted Santander’s court orders department and it froze the account.

He soon received another email from the fraudster asking for more money to “cover the VAT” on the work.

Mr Roseman played along and managed to obtain the sort codes and details of another two accounts — one at Barclays and another at Santander.

He then returned to the High Court to get these accounts frozen and the judge again approved his application.

The court ordered Barclays and Santander to release all contact details and bank statements for the frozen accounts and using these, Mr Roseman tracked down £5,655 in several Santander accounts connected to the fraudster and the bank agreed to return the money.

He also noticed the scammer had transferred around £5,000 to a haulage firm, which repaid his money when requested.

The bank accounts also revealed £9,150 was transferred out of the fraudster’s account more than 24 hours after Mr Roseman first reported the incident to Barclays.

Barclays denied any delay but later agreed to pay the remaining £9,150.

It added £200 compensation. This left £395 outstanding, which the builder took off his bill.

Mr Roseman said “Hopefully, I’ve shown that despite what the banks might say, it is possible to track down cash after it’s disappeared and get the money back.”

“My advice to scam victims is to act immediately. Call your bank, gather evidence and instruct a solicitor to get to court as quickly as you can to freeze the accounts.”

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The Lower Credit Card Interest Rate Scam

This scam is usually by phone – you may get a call from a person but quite often it’s from a robo caller i.e. a computer randomly dialling numbers and playing a recorded message asking you to call them.

This is a well organised and determined scam operation by criminals – do not be taken in by anything they claim.

The caller or robo caller message claims to be able to reduce your credit card debt payments as they can negotiate lower interest rates with your credit company.

There is no truth to this.

The scammers want you to pay them in advance then typically disappear without making any attempt on your behalf.

The companies behind the sales pitches claim to have special relationships with credit card issuers. They guarantee that the reduced rates they offer will save you thousands of dollars in interest and finance charges, and will allow you to pay off your credit card debt three to five times faster. They claim that the lower interest rates are available for a limited time and that you need to act now. Some even use money-back guarantees as further enticement.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that the companies behind these robocalls can’t do anything for you that you can’t do for yourself — for free. You have just as much clout with your credit card issuer as these companies. Indeed, FTC investigators found that people who pay for these services don’t get the touted interest rate reductions, don’t save the promised amounts, don’t pay off their credit card debt three to five times faster, and struggle to get refunds.

The FTC says that if you’re looking to reduce the interest rate you’re paying on your credit card purchases, your best bet is to handle it yourself for free: call the customer service phone number on the back of your credit card and ask for a reduced rate. Be calm, patient and persistent and you might be rewarded.

If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.

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The Banks and Push Payment Scams

There has been a huge increase in Authorised Push Payment (APP) scams through mobile or online banking.

This is where a scammer convinces someone to transfer money to the scammers account – usually by pretending to be a bank employee or Police officer.

Previously, the banks used to treat victims of these scams as being to blame and therefore having to take the financial loss themselves.

Then, some time ago, the largest banks and building societies signed up to a new voluntary code that sets standards for how they should treat victims of APP scams.

However, Which? has raised concerns about the way banks interpret the new code and how in some cases they are trying to shift the blame back onto customers.

e.g. The case of Miss P.

A caller to Miss P. told her that she had won a loyalty bonus worth £35 off her next BT bill and quoted the full details of her bank card as well as her full name and address ‘to confirm her eligibility’. Although she shared no sensitive data over the phone, this laid the groundwork for the second stage of the scam.

A few days later, she received a call from the ‘National Crime Agency’ warning her that £400 had been taken from her account due to a series of scams involving BT and complicit banks. The caller explained that the authorities knew she had been targeted only days before by a caller pretending to be from BT.

They then asked her to help with their investigation into her local bank branch, by moving her money to a ‘safe account’. She agreed and, as instructed, printed off an email that appeared to confirm the opening of this safe account – with Clydesdale Bank – in her name. In reality, this account was controlled by the criminals.

Miss P then visited her nearest branch to transfer £30,000 from her account, telling them that she wanted to move the money so that her savings weren’t all in one place, as she was coached to say.

Lloyds says staff followed the correct procedures, as per the Banking Protocol – a rapid response scheme through which branch staff can alert police and Trading Standards to suspected frauds.

Nothing gave the bank cause for concern. However, Miss P says no concerns were raised or questions asked. It was only the following day when she attempted to move more money from her account, that staff blocked the payment and became concerned about a potential scam.

Lloyds initially refused a refund because ‘she didn’t take steps to verify the identity of the cold caller’.

Under the APP code, banks and their customers must take steps to prevent APP fraud, but if both parties have met the standards set out in the code, there is a ‘no-blame fund’ that banks can use to reimburse innocent victims.

The code also states that firms should provide a greater level of protection for customers who are considered vulnerable to APP scams and these customers should be reimbursed regardless.

Lloyds has since decided to reimburse the full amount.

It is best to take care before instructions from anyone on the phone, even if they do know some of your financial details. Always verify who is calling you by checking with their company at a phone number you find independently.

If you have any experiences with phishing scams do let me know, by email.

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Confirmation of Payee

When you make a bank transfer, you provide the name, sort code and account code to send the money to.  You might reasonably expect that the bank pays attention to all three of those pieces of information and if they don’t match then warn you.

However, banks do not do this – they ignore the name and send the money to the sort code and account code regardless of who they belong to.

If you make a mistake and put the wrong sort code or account code then your money is likely to be gone – and that’s your responsibility.

Scammers know this and use various ploys to get people to transfer money to them believing it is their builder or plumber or a friend or official organisation etc.   The name does not need to match the account as no-one checks it.

Under plans from the UK’s payments operator, the name of someone receiving a payment will be as important as their banking details for the first time, in an attempt to combat fraud and the sender will be alerted if the name does not match the account.

This was supposed to happen by mid 2019, but the deadline was postponed to 31st March 2020 and let’s hope it happens this time.

This change is designed to combat cases when fraudsters mimic a genuine business and attempt to trick people into sending money to an account controlled by the fraudster.

How Confirmation of Payee Will Work

  1. When setting up a new payment, or amending an existing one, banks will be able to check the name on the account of the person or organisation you are paying.
    1. If you use the correct account name, you will receive confirmation that the details match, and can proceed with the payment
    2. If you use a similar name to the account holder, you will be provided with the actual name of the account holder to check. You can update the details and try again, or contact the intended recipient to check the details
    3. If you enter the wrong name for the account holder you will be told the details do not match and advised to contact the person or organisation you are trying to pay

“This is an important step and we would like to see the banks implement this new protection as quickly as possible, giving everyone greater protection against fraud,” said a spokeswoman for payments watchdog, the Payment Systems Regulator.

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