Consumers warned as fraudsters steal £42m in six months
Consumers and businesses are being warned to be vigilant against fraud as an accountancy firm found that £42m-worth of cases have been reported over a six-month period in Northern Ireland.
The total value of reported fraud across the UK between December 2014 and May 2015 was £798m, marking an increase of nearly £80m compared with the same period earlier, according to firm BDO.
The average cost per fraud was £3.27m, which is almost double the £1.82m average cost recorded 12 months ago, and shows that fraud is still a "big business", BDO's "fraudtrack" report found.
Around one-quarter of reported fraud involved consumers being conned, with people falling victim to £188m-worth of losses.
Northern Ireland comes fourth out of 11 UK regions for fraud - disproportionately high for the size of population - behind London and the South East (£460m), Yorkshire (£166m) and the East Midlands (£45m).
Kaley Crossthwaite, head of fraud at BDO, said: "Our analysis shows a resurgence in reported fraud, indicating that people are still not being vigilant enough and need to step back and think about how they personally or their business is susceptible to fraud."
She said that with the recently introduced pension freedoms allowing people more access to their cash, there was a risk that cases of "too good to be true" investment scams may increase.
Within the latest figures, frauds committed by employees cost UK organisations more than £46m, BDO said.
Last week, a survey carried out by pension advisers Portal Financial to highlight fraud risk, found nearly seven in 10 (69%) of respondents in Northern Ireland had been contacted by a company they felt could be carrying some form of financial scam.
In the survey of 1,000 over-55s across the UK, 54% in Northern Ireland said they were not confident they could tell the difference between a scam and a genuine offer from a regulated company.
Reports of fraud here are common place. Only last week, an investigation into a suspected £5.5m VAT and money laundering fraud led to the arrests of five people in, Armagh, Merseyside and Birmingham. The arrests were linked to the export of cars from the UK to Ireland.
In mid-August a man was arrested following complaints from farmers about the management of their business affairs.