Fraud in the South West doubled in 2014, says new BDO report

The total value of reported fraud committed in the South West nearly doubled last year, according to the Bristol office of accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP.

BDO’s Fraud Track report, which examined all reported fraud cases over £50,000 in 2014, reveals that the cost of South West fraud increased from £17.6m in 2013 to £35.1m in 2014.

The total number of reported cases in the region was 47 (a rise from 34 in 2013), and represented 8.6% of all cases of UK reported fraud. The total cost represented 4.9% of the UK total of £720m.

However, the figures for the region were largely skewed because of one high profile case in which a group of Bristol women masterminded a £21m ‘get-rich-quick’ pyramid scheme, defrauding over 10,000 unsuspecting victims.

Other significant cases in the South West included a £2m tax fraud from a Cornwall accountant, a Bristol businessman charged with stealing £1.8m of client monies and an inheritance tax fraud amounting to £1.5m in Gloucester.

Sat Plaha, forensic partner at BDO LLP, commented: “Omitting the £21m case in Bristol, the overall value of reported from in the region has fallen despite a significant rise in volume. This is not dissimilar to what we’re witnessing UK wide.

“One reason for this is that we’re seeing a growing trend for high value complex fraud being dealt with outside the judicial system. Companies are increasing assessing the reputational cost of a public case, with many opting to pursue perpetrators through civil – not criminal – remedies.”

The top three types of fraud in the South West were third party fraud (£25.5m), theft and cash fraud (£2.4m) and tax fraud (£2.3m); while individual (non-corporate) cases accounted for 71% of the total figure in the region.

The total value of UK fraud in 2014 (£720m) was the lowest since Fraud Track started in 2003. However, the total number of reported cases actually rose to a record number (546), while the average value continued to fall from £3.3m (2012) to £2.0m (2013) and £1.3m in 2014.

Outside of London and the South East (£483.8m), the UK’s biggest region for fraudsters in 2014 was the North West (£50.2m).