On Tuesday 17 August 2021, Steve Kelly, the force’s Prevent and Protect Fraud Officer, was joined by members of his team and representatives from the bank to offer advice to customers and hand out leaflets, reminding people of the ways in which they can protect themselves from being conned.
Bank staff are trained to spot the warning signs and many of the businesses work very closely with Kent Police across the county to protect as many people as possible. The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme that enables bank branch staff to alert their local police force when they suspect a customer is being scammed. Police may then visit the branch to investigate and in some instances arrest suspects still on the scene.
On 13 August 2021, a fraudster from Ashford was jailed for four years after trying to steal a vulnerable pensioner’s life savings. His victim was in a care home and after trying but failing to steal around £200,000 of his money online, the offender attended a local bank with an elderly man who he pretended was the victim and made up a story about needing to transfer money from his grandfather’s account to his so he could buy designer watches. The scam was thwarted after staff challenged them and police were alerted.
Steve said: ‘Many scams have been intercepted due to this partnership approach including courier scams, romance fraud and rogue traders who try to convince vulnerable people to draw out large amounts of cash for work they don’t need doing on their properties.
‘We have a team of officers dedicated to preventative work, which includes providing talks at local clubs and associations and we share a lot of advice each day on social media. Kent residents can also sign up to direct alerts from us, which will keep them up-to-date on the latest scams.
‘Not everyone has the internet and some of the most vulnerable in the county may rarely get to mix with others or leave their homes. It’s important to look out for those people, if it’s your neighbour make sure they know to challenge anyone who calls them or knocks on their door and not to feel pressured into saying yes to any work they didn’t ask for. Genuine businesses would not offer to drive you to a bank and ask you to draw out large sums of money.’
Statistics from UK Finance show that in 2020, Kent residents were prevented from losing a total of £1,775,631 due to collaborative work between Kent Police officers and the county’s banks.
Lucy Kirkbride, HSBC UK Canterbury branch Network Manager, said: ‘Education and awareness are key in helping protect customers from unscrupulous fraudsters, and we were delighted to welcome members of the Kent Police Prevent and Protect Fraud team to our branch this week.
‘Fraudsters are unscrupulous criminals, often posing as trustworthy organisations to encourage you to hand over personal or financial information. We see a lot of scams where customers are told their account has been compromised, or the bank can’t be trusted, and to move their money to a ‘safe account’. Your bank will never ask you to share passwords or your PIN, or move your money. Our advice to people is to ‘Take Five’ and to stop and think – does this feel right? If in doubt, call your bank on the number shown on the back of your debit card.’
To report incidents of fraud call Kent Police on 101 or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. You can also report non-urgent crimes online at www.kent.police.uk