Banks, building societies and Post Offices worked with the Police to prevent £32m of fraud in the first half of 2021, according to new figures from UK Finance.

This is up 65% compared to the same period in 2020, pointing to a surge in activity from scammers targeting vulnerable savers during the pandemic.

UK Finance said the ‘Banking Protocol' introduced in 2016 has now helped prevent £174m of financial fraud and urged savers to remain on their guard as ending of Government lockdown support likely to increase financial vulnerability.

The latest figures revealed that branch staff invoked the Banking Protocol 4,782 times between January and June 2021, saving potential victims an average of £6,672 each.

Ultimately the scheme led to the arrest of over 90 suspected criminals, bringing the total number of arrests to 934 since the protocol began.

Katy Worobec, managing director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, said: "Fraud has a devastating impact on victims so partnerships like the Banking Protocol are not only crucial in helping vulnerable people, but it also stops stolen money from going on to fund other illicit activities including drug smuggling, human-trafficking and terrorism.

"Criminals have continued to capitalise on the pandemic to commit fraud, callously targeting victims through impersonation, romance, courier and rogue trader scams. Branch staff and the police are working on the frontline to protect people from fraud and these figures highlight the importance of their work in stopping these cruel scams and bringing the criminals to justice."

In reaction to the figures, Tom Selby, head of retirement policy at AJ Bell, said: "The fact £32 million of financial fraud has been prevented by lenders and the Police is clearly good news, suggesting improved training for branch staff is helping protect savers from the scourge of scams.

"This also likely reflects the fact scammers have been ramping up their attempts to steal money from savers during lockdown.

"It was depressing but inevitable that criminals would see the pandemic as an opportunity to line their pockets, with figures from the Financial Conduct Authority pointing to a surge in financial vulnerability over the last 12 months.

"While schemes such as the Banking Protocol and measures like the ban on pensions cold-calling have been introduced to protect people, there remains much more that can be done.

Selby continued: "The most obvious place the Government could start would be tackling the Wild West of online scams. There is growing pressure for paid-for advertisements to be included in the Online Harms Bill, a move that should help drive the internet giants to do more to protect users.

"But the reality is there will always be sophisticated fraudsters out there attempting to steal your money, so it is crucial savers do all they can to protect themselves.

"That means knowing the tell-tale signs of a scam, being extremely wary of too-good-to-be-true offers, doing your due diligence before handing over your money and reporting anything suspicious to the relevant authorities."

UK Finance set out the following four case studies behind the figures:

Romance scam

A woman tried to send an online payment of £2500 to the USA to a friend she had previously worked with in the UK. When the payment was blocked, she visited her local bank branch.

She said she had been exchanging messages with this friend on a social media platform and that they had asked for the money to pay their hospital fees.

Staff invoked the Banking Protocol, and the local police attended the branch. No money was lost to this scam.

Courier scam

A woman in her 80s received a telephone call from a male claiming to be from her bank. The male claimed there was an issue with the victim's account and in order to help her with this he needed her to withdraw money (£2000) from her account. The victim was told to attend the bank to do so and call back when home for further instructions.

The victim attended the branch and staff confirmed to the victim that this man had not been in contact with them, and it was in fact a scam. The staff refused the withdrawal and invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting local police. Officers attended and offered fraud advice to the victim. The bank also put measures in place to further safeguard the victim from any future frauds.

Investment scam

A man in his 90s visited his local bank branch as an international payment he had attempted to make online had been stopped. He had been contacted by a company who wanted to sell shares that he held in America, saying he could get a return of £60,000 but had to send $7000 dollars which he would get back. Bank branch staff invoked the Banking Protocol and the police visited him at home. No money was lost and the police are investigating this company further.

Rogue trader scam

A woman in her 80s had builders explaining that they had been working on her neighbour's roof and noticed that her roof also needed repairing. The victim offered to show the builders her property and they told the victim it was an urgent issue which needed to be fixed.

The builders quoted the work (£1500) and told the victim that they needed to take the payment in cash only. The victim explained that she would need to attend the bank to withdraw this.

At her local bank, the victim explained to bank staff what the money was for which made staff concerned it was a scam. Bank staff invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting the local police force and refused the transaction.

Officers attended and were able to offer the victim advice and ensured no suspects were still on the scene. Officers were also able to enquire with neighbours and ensure they were supporting the victim in future. A fraud caseworker has offered her ongoing support.