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Old Fashioned Con Artistry Makes A Comeback

(c) Sky News 2013

Traditional con artistry is making a comeback with cheque and procurement fraud as well as Ponzi scams on the rise.

While the spotlight has been on rogue traders and 'super' fraud cases in recent years, KPMG has found a surge in the number of individuals swindling employers, banks and the government.

The latest bi-annual Fraud Barometer reports that insider fraud is hitting corporates hard while more individuals are over-claiming benefits and evading tax.

Cases include a finance department employee who stole hundreds of thousands of pounds – leading to the closure of the company she worked for.

In another case, a family used false identities to claim £2.2m in HIV medication - which was then shipped to Africa and sold at a profit.

Identity fraud more than doubled in value from the year before to £26.3m, while counterfeit goods fraud was three times the five-year average at £22.9m.

Ponzi Schemes worth £72m came to court - also three times the level seen in 2011 and procurement fraud increased to £21.4m in 2012.

Hitesh Patel, UK Forensic Partner at KPMG, said: "In the last few years we have become used to sophisticated frauds at eye-watering values. 

"While the total value of fraud has dropped substantially in the absence of so-called fraud 'super' cases, the old-fashioned con man hasn't given up his tricks. 

"Times may be tough but the data shows that some people are unwilling to give up the lifestyles they've become accustomed to."

Fraud by either management or employees accounted for 80% of financial loss through fraud experienced by UK businesses in 2012.

Employee fraud cases rose to 35 in 2012, up from 22 the year before, with their value doubling from £12m in 2011 to £25.1m over the past year.

Tax evasion or benefit fraud cases rose to 15 from three in 2011.

Mr Patel said: "Tax evasion is one of the hot topics of the moment but an increasing assault on the social welfare budgets, particularly benefit fraud, is a real and increasing threat for the government, as shown by the latest figures. 

"Fraudulent actions of individuals in both the public and private sectors exacerbate the need to make cuts in the first place and cause more than just monetary loss: jobs can be lost and already tight government budgets are stretched further, with implications for the delivery of services."

The report also found a fall in the number of cases perpetrated by professional criminals, from 98 at the end of 2011 (valued at £1.4bn) to 79 in the 12 months to December 2012 (valued at £414m).