A RAPID-response scheme set up by banks and the police prevented potential fraud victims in Hampshire from being scammed out of £1.4million in 2018.

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 to give to a fraudster, after which they can request an immediate police response to the branch.

A total of seven arrests were made by Hampshire Constabulary last year through the initiative, while in total police received 247 emergency calls from those taking part.

The latest figures reveal that across the country the scheme has prevented £38 million of fraud and led to 231 arrests in 2018.

The average age of a customer helped by the Banking Protocol nationally last year was 71, showing how fraudsters are often targeting more elderly victims with these types of scams.

The Banking Protocol was rolled out by Hampshire Constabulary in June 2017.

Since March 2018, the scheme has been implemented by all 45 police forces across the UK.

Fifty-two payment service providers, including all the main high street banks and the Post Office, are now fully signed up to the Banking Protocol and have trained their front-line branch staff in the steps that need to be taken when a customer is at risk.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: "Bank branch staff are on the front line in the fight against fraud, as increasingly sophisticated gangs target consumers directly and trick them into withdrawing large sums of cash.

"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."

Detective Sergeant Sarah Dring, of Hampshire Constabulary’s Volume Fraud Investigation Team, also supports the initiative.

"It is very important bank staff can recognise the signs and feel confident enough to call 999, as often the victims do not know they are being scammed," she said.

"All bank employees have now received fraud loss prevention training and we will continue to work with them to make sure people aren’t conned into handing over their hard-earned cash.

"The types of fraud we see through the Banking Protocol range from online romance fraud to scams where people have been called by scammers impersonating police officers or council officials.

"Anyone who suspects they have been a victim of fraud should call 101 for advice or report direct to Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk)."

The initiative, which was developed in partnership with National Trading Standards, trains bank branch staff to spot the signs of a scam and what steps need to be taken when a customer is deemed at risk.

If a staff member suspects a customer is being tricked by a fraudster, for example if someone is making an unusually large cash withdrawal, they will take them aside to ask additional questions.

Then if their suspicions are confirmed, the staff member can invoke the Banking Protocol and contact the local police, who will send a priority response to the branch and investigate the suspected fraud.

As well as stopping attempted fraud, the scheme ensures extra support is provided to those customers affected to help prevent them falling victim to similar scams in the future. This can include referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions.

The advice is to never give details out to someone unless you are sure of their credentials and remember if a financial arrangement seems too good to be true, it probably is.