Fraud on the rise as financial pressures bite, says KPMG

image captionTough economic times are seeing a rise in scams and fraud against employers and the government

Personal pressures at work and at home are driving more people to commit fraud, a survey by KPMG has suggested.

Identity fraud more than doubled in value to £26.3m in 2012 and counterfeit goods' fraud is at a five-year high.

Companies blamed insider fraud perpetrated by either management or employees for 80% of fraud-related financial losses last year.

However, the number of cases and value of fraud committed by professionals fraudsters fell in 2012, KPMG said.

In a survey of fraud cases in the UK's Crown courts, accountancy firm KPMG found that insider fraud was pushing some companies to the brink of collapse.

"What we are seeing is individuals looking to feather their nests through ripping off employers, banks or the government," said Hitesh Patel, UK Forensic Partner at KPMG.

"Times may be tough, but the data shows that some people are unwilling to give up the lifestyles they've become accustomed to."

In one case-study reported, a finance department employee stole hundreds of thousands of pounds to fund an extravagant lifestyle. The discovery led to the company being placed into administration and the loss of 20 of her colleagues' jobs.

Focus shift

Mr Patel believes that the much-publicised cases of insider dealing and the Libor banking scandal have skewed the picture of fraud in the UK.

"In the last few years, we have become used to sophisticated frauds at eye-watering values," he said.

"While the total value of fraud has dropped substantially in the absence of so-called super cases, the old fashioned conman hasn't given up his tricks."

The survey looked at fraud cases where the charges were in excess of £100,000.

According to Mr Patel, these cases include back-office fraud, procurement fraud and what he calls plain old-fashioned con tricks.

Counterfeit fraud in 2012 was three times higher than the five-year average, at £22.9m; Ponzi schemes worth £72m came to court last year - three times higher than the level in 2011; and the value of fraud committed by employees almost doubled to £25.1m over the last 12 months, according to the report.

The threat of job losses, pay freezes and job restructuring can lead to a more competitive environment that can lead individuals to act illegally, Mr Patel suggested.

Benefit fraud

There was also a marked increase in cases involving individuals over-claiming benefits or evading tax.

There were 15 cases reported in 2012, compared to 3 in 2011.

"Benefit fraud is a real and increasing threat for the government...we expect to see an increase in this kind of fraud this year as personal pressures mount," Mr Patel said.

In another case study cited, a family used false identities to claim for HIV drugs worth £2.2m, which were then sold on for profit.

But the research suggested that the number of cases carried out by professional criminals has fallen, from 98 at the end of 2011 to 79 in 2012.

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