ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Businesses urged to unite as fraud cases rise 25% in a year

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 15 May 2023

Police-backed North West Fraud Forum asks businesses to collaborate in the fight against fraud, as new figures reveal increased losses in the region over the past year.

With instances of fraud predicted to increase by 25% over the coming year, fuelled by the cost-of-living crisis and economic turmoil, businesses in the North West of England are being urged to collaborate to mitigate the growing threat.

New figures from Action Fraud reveal that £183.4m was lost to fraud across the region in the past year against a backdrop of a nationwide 25% year-on-year increase in fraud cases for the year ending March 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The Greater Manchester area alone saw £70.3m in losses and more than 16,000 cases of fraud. The North West Fraud Forum (NWFF), which brings together counter fraud professionals from public and private sectors within the region, is calling on businesses to commit time and budget to counter-fraud processes to prevent further losses.

Detective Inspector Shifa Chowdhury Jones, Honorary President of the NWFF and a member of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, stresses the importance of businesses sharing knowledge and information to stay informed of risks and mitigate threats.

“Our statistics show that around 40% of all crime is fraud, so it’s really important that we bring businesses together to share knowledge and information in order to combat fraud,” she said. “Fraud reaches more people than any other crime type and is also believed to be hugely underreported."

Chowdhury Jones also urged businesses to report frauds and attempted frauds to the police or to Action Fraud to ensure that information and statistics were relevant and up to date. 

Justin Kyriakou, ICAEW’s Regional Director for North West and Midlands, stood behind the NWFF initiative. “By working together, businesses and accountants can help to protect the North West from fraud,” Kyriakou said.

“The North West is one of the fastest growing commercial hubs in the country, and as a result it is likely to suffer from more fraud than other regions. Businesses in the North West are also more likely to have access to large sums of money, and they are more likely to be involved in complex transactions.”

Accountants are vital in spotting fraud

Kyriakou said the growing complexity of business operations makes it more difficult to detect fraud, and growing use of technology also made it easier for fraud to be committed. 

“This puts accountants in a pivotal role in helping to spot and flag any fraud. Accountants have a unique understanding of business operations, and they are often the first people to spot unusual activity. Businesses concerned by any transaction, however minor it may appear to be, need to involve their accountant as soon as possible to remove any element of doubt.”

The NWFF have added accountants to their ranks on their steering board from Dains Accountants and Grant Thornton. They work closely with the team to help provide tools and education in fraud prevention.

Claire Graham, Chair of the NWFF and Partner at UK law firm TLT, believes that accountants often have the upper hand when it comes to spotting anomalies a lot faster because of their access to company records.

Graham says it is crucial to flag potential fraud occurrences with haste, especially as statistics show that fraud is only set to increase. Graham believes insider fraud is an area that should not be underestimated and that could see a noticeable rise in the coming years, as a result of widespread significant personal financial pressures due to the rise in the cost of living.

“It’s essential that businesses are therefore vigilant and review their policies and procedures to prevent individuals from looking for gaps inside their own business, or alternatively the company that they work for, to relieve those financial pressures,” she adds.

Working together in the fight against fraud

Graham agrees that a collaborative approach offers the best defence for businesses against fraud, in particular networking with other businesses, government departments and the police to share experiences and best practice and stay up to date with combative measures.

The NWFF holds masterclasses to discuss fraud and share people’s experiences, and ways of preventing it. “As a forum we offer training to equip investigators and give an insight into the products that are available to help prevent fraud or investigate it once it’s happened,” says Graham.

“One masterclass we are planning looks at the best practice of how to gather the information once a fraud has been uncovered to ensure that it is capable of being used by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). This means that the business can prevent mistakes in their investigation, which could jeopardise the criminal prosecution and ongoing recovery.”

The NWFF will hold a counter-fraud event for businesses and the public sector on 18 May featuring keynote speaker Jenny Radcliffe, the “People Hacker”, who will discuss some of the cases she has worked on as well as the tactics, methods and motivations of malicious social engineers and fraudsters. The talk will give an insight into the world of professional scammers and the psychology behind their attacks.

The event is open to ICAEW members and readers from a professional background. To book please register here

Access ICAEW’s Audit and Fraud hub for more useful content around this subject.

Economic crime hub

In these articles and videos, we explore the latest trends and perspectives on economic crime from around the world, and look at how chartered accountants can help prevent it happening.

A hand pointing at a graph on a screen

You may also be interested in

AML resources
Person using a calculator
Anti-money laundering resources

Useful resources for ICAEW's AML supervised firms.

Find out more
Help us improve regulation

Good regulation is essential for trust in business. The Better Regulation project aims to help ICAEW and its members understand how the UK’s regulatory regime might be improved and to use our insights to call for change.

Find out more
Film reel
ICAEW training films

ICAEW training films provoke discussions and challenge mindsets about how to deal with difficult decisions and topical issues in business situations.

Find out more