As more people than ever are scammed, Stephen Walsh finds out how banks are trying to protect their customers
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Scots were scammed out of £120million by fraud gangs every year.
In the north-east alone, £1.2million was stolen from vulnerable people in just one three-week period last year.
And while there is no doubt that the scammers use sophisticated methods and have convincing ruses, banks bosses are urging customers to think twice before handing over their precious details.
Bank employees are on the frontline of the battle against fraudsters, often having to make a decision on whether a customer is being scammed.
In the past few weeks, four north-east branches have foiled at least eight attempts.
Jill Ewen, the local chief executive for the RBS St Nicholas branch in Aberdeen, said each staff member is highly-trained so they can take customers on “a journey” to protect them from scams.
She said: “Due diligence is making sure everything sounds right, it’s got an element of probably a bit of common sense – if a customer tells you something, does it actually fit in with what that customer would normally do? If it’s not that’s when you should start asking questions, because ultimately you want to protect the customer and make sure that the money isn’t going somewhere it shouldn’t be.
“We proactively exercise due diligence. Our colleagues will then engage our customers in conversation to understand where that payment’s going, why they’re having to make the payment, asking them specific questions until we’re satisfied.
“Those questions involve checking whether someone has been asked to make the payment by the bank, or someone like HMRC, because that’s when we start to raise suspicion.
“We check with the customer to make sure they’ve not been asked to keep this information to themselves, we also check whether the customer’s not been telephoned or visited by anyone at their home or their workplace telling them that they need repairs done to their roof, for example. That would be a prime example of doorstep scam.”
One such incident happened recently, with scammers frogmarching an Aberdeen woman in her 70s to a bank and demanding she hand over £4,000 for “materials” for gutter work.
In other scams, cold callers convince vulnerable people they need work done to their homes and charge a vast amount.
Alternatively, they use online and telephone scams to convince people to give up access to their accounts under the pretence they have been targeted by criminals.
Bank staff work closely with the police, and if foul play is suspected they can contact the force who will send officers as quickly as possible.
But in the unfortunate event that someone does have their savings stolen, bank staff are often the first to witness the devastating impact it can have.
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Anne Dewar, the bank’s local director for the north and north-east, helps to co-ordinate the support offered to victims.
She said: “If folk have lost a big sum of money that’s a huge thing for somebody.
“So it’s about sitting them down in the room, talking to them, giving them an idea of timescales on getting the money back and keeping in touch with them on a regular basis, speaking to them every step of the process.
“We also want to make sure they’re confident so that they don’t let something like this happen again.
“As long as the customer has not given their details it’s fraud, we’ll get the money back.”