'Con artists' blamed for soaring cost of Scottish fraud

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Image caption The value of fraud cases in Scotland has reached £1.8m in the first six months of 2013

The value of fraud cases in Scotland has soared in the first six months of the year, according to the auditor KPMG.

Its report revealed an increase of more than 60% compared with the same period last year.

The figures are dominated by embezzlement and tax fraud, KPMG said.

The company said Scottish courts had dealt with five cases of high-value fraud - amounts in excess of £100,000 - in the first six months of this year.

High profile

While this was the same number of cases than in the same period in 2012, the company's Fraud Barometer indicated that the total value of cases had risen from £1,160,252 in 2012 to £1,868,548 this year.

The figures have been skewed by some recent high-profile incidences.

One of the main cases was a former solicitor accused of embezzling £570,000 from clients in Arbroath, Angus, between 2001 and 2006.

In a separate case, a bank worker in Dunfermline was alleged to have defrauded customers of £415,000.

And a businessman admitted conning officials into handing over VAT repayments worth £167,000 that he was not entitled to for businesses in Dundee, Glasgow and Perth

Ken Milliken, from KPMG in Scotland, said: "Con artists remain the order of the day, with several high profile cases highlighting that employees are still quite happy to risk all to increase their bank balances.

"This trend is at odds with what we are seeing across the UK where professional criminals are having a major impact on increasing levels of fraud."

Across the UK, the value of fraud cases in the first half of 2013 was more than £0.5bn - which signals more than a 25% increase on last year, according to the report.

Honest investors

The latest data showed that governments and financial institutions are really bearing the brunt of the cost of fraud with £405m suffered in 2013 compared with £271m in 2012.

One of the main drivers for the losses to financial institutions was loan and mortgage fraud, up from £59m in 2012 to £160m.

Hitesh Patel, Forensic Partner at UK KPMG, said: "We can really see the manifestation of pressure on the family purse in the increase in honest investors defrauded.

"With pensions, traditional investments and incomes squeezed at the same time as inflationary pressures driving up costs, people are feeling compelled to seek alternative ways of growing their savings to maintain lifestyles."

He added: "What is clear from this year's report is that fraud is on the up and remains a huge cost to government and the private sector. It is a welcome development to see that the government continues its fight against white-collar crime.

"A very severe punishment regime is being proposed in the sentencing guidelines consultation paper issued recently to tackle the growing scourge of white-collar crime and the acknowledgement that the real cost of fraud is more than just financial."

The data from the first six months of 2013 shows that in the UK, 86% of frauds were committed by men and 95% were committed by people over the age of 35.

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