Belfast Telegraph

More than half of UK firms were victims of fraud: poll

By Clare Weir

A Belfast-based crack team of forensic investigators has revealed that over half of UK businesses they polled have reported a case of economic crime in the past year.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers Global Economic Crime Survey (GECS) saw the firm's forensic services team, which operates from Northern Ireland, poll 3,877 organisations in 78 countries.

The team has revealed that economic crime is soaring as firms across the world cut back on their fraud detection, and added that the true extent of the problem may be much worse.

The findings, launched in Belfast this week, showed that 51% of firms in the UK have reported such a crime, a significant increase on the 43% of victims recorded in last year's survey.

Ian McConnell, from the firm, said that the most worrying element of the survey was the extent to which UK public and private sector organisations were falling victim to so-called white-collar fraud.

"During a downturn, some core functions like compliance and internal audit, which are the first lines of defence against fraud, are also the first and hardest hit by corporate cost-cutting," he said.

"In the current economic environment, under-staffing and increased workloads can mean internal fraud going undetected.

"Given some concern as to the level of detections, the situation may be even worse than the survey suggests.

"Nearly a quarter of all the UK public sector organisations and private sector businesses we surveyed said they'd experienced more than 10 incidents of economic crime during the past year."

The survey found that, while the majority of UK economic crime is still external, over a third of organisations said their own employees were responsible for the largest frauds, with the typical employee fraudster being male, aged between 31 and 40, educated to below degree level and having worked for the organisation for three to five years.

The survey also revealed that cybercrime has become the third most common type of economic crime in the UK, while levels of 'conventional' economic crime have fallen.

PwC said that many organisations are not clear about exactly what cybercrime is and how to protect themselves.