KPMG notes high volume of lower value frauds with 96% of cases under £10m

While fraudsters are at the cutting edge of technology, some have reverted to ‘paper and pen’ as organisations focus efforts on technology-driven defences, according to a new report.

KPMG’s bi-annual Fraud Barometer also found a high volume of fraud cases prosecuted in the past year but at much lower value levels than recorded in previous years. The report indicated that the average case value for 2013 came in at £2.9 million, compared to £6.1 million, over the last five years.

‘Low tech’ crime was back on the agenda as companies upped the ante on cybercrime and electronic defences. KPMG noted bizarre instances of cheque payee details being written with disappearing ink and replaced with a different name later to conventional scams involving tax rebates, loans and mis-selling. Such ‘low tech’ fraud totalled more than £343 million last year, up from £41 million in the previous 12 months.

Meanwhile, there were cases where banks and businesses were attacked online, with fraudsters using computers, turning to robotics and malware in an attempt to avoid detection. One example involved eight people, arrested in connection with a £1.3 million theft by a gang who took control of a bank’s branch computer system.

It involved placing a ‘keyboard video mouse’ and 3G router to one of the computers inside the branch when one of the fraudsters posed as an engineer, saying he was there to fix computers. The ‘fix’ enabled the gang to control computers remotely using code and surveillance to find holes in organisational cyber defences and transfer money into different bank accounts.

In another case, fraudsters posted fake job advertisements for vacancies at Harrods on a website as part of a £1 million scam to trick desperate job hunters of their savings. The con involved writing ‘Trojan’ malware which was hidden in job application pack downloads posted on the free website Gumtree.

Once embedded on computers, the software copied bank log on and security details of those seeking work, before forwarding them on to the criminals who netted in excess of £1 million.

Hitesh Patel, UK forensic partner at KPMG, said: “It is certainly the case that we have seen fraudsters using very clever high tech frauds to attack banks, businesses and local authorities, but we have also seen some of the biggest frauds in more ‘low tech’ scams.”

As old forms of transactions, such as cheques, are phased out, organisations are focussing on developing sophisticated lines of defence. “Yet, rather than putting criminals off, many fraudsters are ignoring the challenge of triumphing over technology in favour of using simpler methods of deception,” Patel added.

KPMG also noted the first prosecution under the UK Bribery Act (2010). In a case relating to the purchase of 6,000 hectares of land in Cambodia purchased through senior military officials based in the country, three senior executives have been charged with making and accepting a financial advantage in breach of the Act.

As well as focusing on how they were able to purchase the land, the £23 million case examined whether the company mis-sold bio-fuel investment products, after the authorities were alerted to the possibility they were providing false information to clients.