Businesses in the south west are being hit by a surge in fraud as the economic situation deteriorates, according to new research.
The survey also reveals that in the last 12 months the overall number of firms which have suffered at the hands of criminals has again risen.
The findings are revealed in the latest monthly survey carried out by leading business advisory firm Deloitte.
It is the third in-depth investigation into the extent to which the region’s business community is being hit by criminals and backs up fears that the recession is encouraging more people to turn to crime – and in particular fraud – to boost their income.
Tracy Hunter, a fraud specialist who heads the Forensic and Dispute Services department in the Bristol office of Deloitte, said the latest figures showed worrying trends which would only get worse as the recession deepened.
“Fraud in particular is on the rise in the south west, with many more businesses reporting they’d been victims of that particular crime than last year.
“In the past relatively low-level crime, such as burglary and vandalism, topped the polls when it came to crime against businesses, but in recent months, fraud – whether by a staff member, a contractor or member of the public – has become the number one threat to our business community.”
Overall 42% of respondents said their business had been targeted by criminals in the past 12 months, which follows the pattern of a three-year upward trend from 40 % (2008) and 33% (2007).
According to the latest British Crime Survey fraud nationally is up 16%, and of the businesses who said they had been victims of crime, 63% had experienced fraud in the last 12 months compared to 15% last year.
After fraud, the next most common form of crime against businesses in the west was vehicle crime, which accounted for a quarter of all incidents.
Next come burglary and attempted burglary, which was reported by 12% of businesses and which was broadly the same rate as last year.
While half of businesses said crime had cost them under £1k in the past 12 months, almost a third – 31% – said the cost was between £1k and £5k.
However, most disturbing of all were the 6% of respondents who said criminal acts cost them between £50k and £100k, with the same figure reporting that a bill of over £100k.
One third of respondents (33%) said the primary result of crime on their business was the increased insurance costs, more than double last year’s 14%.
Interestingly, the amount of firms citing disruption to their operations as the major effect of crime was down from 50% to 33%.