An upsurge in banking and electronic payments swindles sent UK fraud cases soaring to a record high during the first six months of this year, according to the latest figures from KPMG Forensics Fraud Barometer.
According to the research - which documents crown court cases involving theft of more than £100,000 - 90 prosecutions were heard in the first half of 2003, outstripping the total number of cases for the whole of 2002
The total value of fraud within the six-month period to 30 June 2003 reached £216 million, a 15% decrease compared to the same period last year.
David Alexander, fraud investigation partner at KPMG Forensic attributes the shift in values to economic circumstances, as more individuals succumb to fraud as a means to escape debt and other financial commitments.
"In difficult economic times, the pressure on individuals to commit fraud is increased," he says. "It is not surprising, therefore, that we are seeing a rise in 'smaller' frauds as more and more desperate people turn to fraud as the only way out."
The number of financial/banking frauds increased almost three-fold during this six month period compared to the last six months of 2002 – up from five cases to fourteen – at an average of £1.1million per case. Many of these frauds were perpetrated by employees who used their inside knowledge of the business to steal from their employer. In one example, a former employee of Lloyds TSB was charged with stealing £1.2 million from the bank.
Identity fraud remained a threat within this sector. One example was the case of a man who plundered the electoral roll to 'steal' 59 identities to forge thousands of documents to support his credit card and bank applications to obtain £556,000 of funds.
Electronic payment fraud has also become a serious issue for financial institutions. Several frauds involving stolen cash point cards and PIN numbers were noted, including one group of twelve people who were jailed after they exploited a computer glitch, which allowed them to withdraw a total of £285,000 from their accounts without the amount actually being debited; while in Scotland, a worker in a bank call centre fraudulently accessed money after a customer accidentally revealed his PIN number – the fraud totalled £250,000.
David Alexander comments: "Our current investigations are showing an increase in the incidences of electronic payment fraud. As businesses become more reliant on electronic payments than ever before, the associated fraud risks...has increased exponentially."