Tide of fraud rises higher


Tide of fraud rises higher

Antony Savvas

Britain's fraud problem shows no sign of abating, with over £1bn of fraud coming to court in 2007, a large chunk of which was web- or IT-related.

According to the KPMG Forensic Fraud Barometer, the country has just recorded its highest level (by value) of fraud since 1995, and the second highest ever in the barometer's 20-year history.

Although the number of cases coming to court fell to 197 from 277 in 2006, this number was higher than any seen in any year prior to 2005, said KPMG.

With fears that the credit crunch will lead to a period of protracted economic slowdown, KPMG Forensic warned that personal and corporate pressures could fuel fraudulent behaviour, making the situation worse in 2008 rather than better.

Hitesh Patel, partner at KPMG Forensic, said, "Levels of fraud continue to remain disturbingly high. Organised gangs have been more active than ever, with a proliferation in VAT frauds, ID thefts and other forms of white collar crime, to the tune of a huge £889m, or nearly 90% of fraud by value."

KPMG said government agencies had been the primary target for fraud by organised gangs, with fraud totals reaching £833m. This represents an enormous jump from 2006, when professional gangs accounted for just £221m of fraud.

Once again last year, carousel fraud on items such as mobile phones and computer chips represented a substantial proportion of the value of organised fraud.

Gangs have also aggressively exploited ID theft to perpetrate scams, making false benefit or tax credit claims, often through government benefit websites.

Other scams were more basic. One saw a Northern Ireland man routinely remove barcodes on items in a hardware superstore and replace them with his own false barcodes so that he paid less than the items were worth. He then sold the goods on eBay and made an estimated profit of £100,000 before he was finally caught.

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