Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 12:24 UK

Fraud risk 'rises' during crunch

Bank cards and a padlock
Companies should have anti-fraud measures in place

Fraud in the workplace is likely to accelerate during the global economic downturn, says accountants KPMG.

This is because managers may falsify figures to make performance look better and debt-strapped employees are more likely to commit fraud.

Corporate fraud was 630m in the first six months of 2008, up on recent years.

Fraudsters may struggle to get false credit cards in the current climate, making them more likely to target their victim's deposit accounts.

Rising fraud

The typical fraudster tends to be a male, middle manager, aged between 35 and 55, working in the finance department and having been with the company for many years, KPMG said.

Fraud is on the rise, with the value of fraud losses topping 1bn in cases heard in 2007, compared with 192m in 2000.

In the first half of 2008, some 128 fraud cases reached the UK courts with losses totalling 630m, according to KPMG's Forensic Fraud Barometer.

The signs are that we could end up seeing some substantial losses being suffered
Hitesh Patel, KPMG

This was up from 421m during the last six months of 2007 and more than half of this figure - 350m - was lost in the financial sector.

Slowdown hits

KPMG warns that fraud will increase as the full impact of the slowdown is felt.

"The fear is that we will not see the real and full fraud impact of the crunch for another six or 12 months or even more, as businesses start to take a closer look at their operations in this difficult economic climate," said KPMG Forensic partner Hitesh Patel.

"The signs are that we could end up seeing some substantial losses being suffered."

Another theory is that the economic downturn could push more people into crime.

One unexpected benefit of the credit crunch is that the reduction in the availability of credit means it may be more difficult for identity fraudsters to apply for cards and loans in somebody else's name. A recent report by the all-party parliamentary group on identity fraud suggested that the squeeze on credit was pushing fraudsters to attempt to empty existing bank accounts.

Mark Bowerman, of UK payment association Apacs, said that it was unlikely that any trend would become apparent until card fraud figures for the year were published in March.

Apacs figures for the first six months of 2008 show that plastic card fraud losses were up 14% to 301m, with fraud abroad and internet fraud also on the rise.

KPMG says that companies should have an "anti-fraud culture" in the workplace, with financial matters being signed off by a number of people.

Whistle-blowing hotlines should be well-publicised and computer analysis should highlight any possible fraudulent patterns, such as invoices being submitted out of hours.

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