BUSINESSES in Kent lost more than £5million in fraud last year, a Freedom of  information request has shown.

RSM, a leading audit, tax and consulting firm with an office in Tunbridge Wells, has warned firms to be vigilant after obtaining the statistics. Akhlaq Ahmed, forensic partner at RSM, said: “Frauds against businesses can range from the very simple to the very sophisticated.

“Businesses across the region are collectively losing tens of millions of pounds through fraud every year, much of which can be prevented by simple controls.”

RSM, locally based on Mount Ephraim Road, obtained the data from ActionFraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre. In the 2016-17 tax year, nearly
£42million was lost through fraud in the South East with more than 6,000 reports to the police.

Nationally, the highest losses sustained by businesses resulted from incidents of cheque, plastic card and online bank fraud.

This was followed by corporate employee fraud and mandate fraud, where criminals obtain details of direct debits, standing orders or account transfer details and amend them to transfer monies to other accounts.

The highest number of reports concerned ‘retail fraud’ committed against shops and

Such crimes would include attempting to obtain a refund for stolen goods, switching labels on clothes to obtain a cheaper price or ordering food in a restaurant and leaving
without paying. Mr Ahmed continued: “Companies should be much more proactive in
ensuring their defences, both online and offline, are fit for purpose.

“Those that don’t take action could find themselves very exposed.”

Of the five authorities analysed, Kent had the third highest amount of loss with £5.3million from 1,777 reports.

This ranked the authority behind Sussex (£23.8million) and Thames Valley (£5.8million) but ahead of Surrey (£3.9million) and Hampshire (£2.6million).