Community bankers: The NatWest team out to foil 21st century scammers

NatWest employees at the Chorley branch
NatWest employees at the Chorley branch
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Nobody wants to be the victim of a scam in any walk of life, but when it comes to financial scams, the stakes are ramped up.

Money is inextricably linked to not only future security, but also represents the hours, days, and months of hard work it took to earn. Scammers after your money are rightly regarded as wickedly nefarious, so knowing there is a dedicated team of crime-busting experts on hand is reassuring to say the least.

NatWest Community Banker Nicola Henshall

NatWest Community Banker Nicola Henshall

NatWest has been around since 1968. Part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, which posted revenues of £13.402 billion last year, it has had an auspicious first 50 years, now boasting more than 7.5m customers in the UK. You’ll find almost 1,000 NatWest branches spread across the UK from Aberdeen to Penzance.

Banking has a reputation as a somewhat austere business dominated by numbers, heartless data, and inaccessible jargon. Given that the sector deals in something as personal as people’s money, it’s therefore heartening to know that NatWest offers the services of a crack team of scam-savvy specialists.

Their community bankers are devoted to promoting financial security and quashing 21st century thieves.

“Community bankers have a unique role,” explains Nicola Henshall (49), community banker for Chorley and the surrounding region. “I offer free talks around fraud, scams, and digital safety and they’re open to everyone - they’re not limited to NatWest or RBS customers. I’m fortunate that I get to spend time in branch helping customers but also go out into the community to hold events.”

Hitting back at the scammers: the NatWest Community Bankers team

Hitting back at the scammers: the NatWest Community Bankers team

A veritable A-Team of financial elves, the company’s community bankers are on-hand to talk customers through the latest scams, offering tips on staying secure and financially fit, and meet people where it’s most convenient for them. With just 5% of scams actually reported, qualified banker Nicola travels across the North West holding talks at local libraries, workplaces, sports clubs, leisure centres, and even people’s homes.

“Scams get people talking; unfortunately they come in all shapes and sizes, so I give people the confidence to protect themselves,” says Nicola, a community banker for the past six months. “We tell everyone about the latest scams that are trending so they can share it with friends, family, and isolated neighbours. We give tips on how to protect people and stay safe.

“Criminals are incredibly professional,” she adds. “Impersonation scams involve criminals claiming to be contacting you from the bank or the police or a telecoms provider; they go to great lengths to sound like they’re calling from these institutions - some even play background music or transfer you and even spoof, which is when they copy the bank’s telephone number.”

With the scammers out to lull you into a false sense of security, gather information, and then steal your identity in order to apply for services in your name, Nicola says she sees an ‘awful lot’ of phone scams in this day an age.

“Our advice is simple: don’t respond to any unexpected calls because the minute you enter into conversation, criminals start to gather information,” Nicola says. “The police, banks, and other organisations will never ask you to transfer funds or to provide sign-in details to online banking.

“When you put the phone down, the scammer can actually still be on the other end of the line so, if you’re calling your bank to check after an unexpected call, either use a different device or leave it five minutes,” she adds. “We always say: take five and think about whether you want to be giving that kind of information to somebody.”

But, being at the vanguard of financial security is tremendously gratifying. “It’s really rewarding to think you’re helping people stay safe when it comes to money they’ve worked all their lives for,” Nicola said. “To lose that can be really distressing and not only have a financial impact, but an emotional impact as well.”