Employee fraud on the rise

Published by Jodie Jones on 22 May 2024

Share this article

The impact of financial fraud by employees has reached unprecedented levels.

It is also increasingly hard to discover and can often have a devastating impact on a business, says Jodie Jones, a senior manager in the forensic accounting team at Kreston Reeves. 

Every year, KPMG publishes its annual Fraud Barometer. In 2023 the levels of fraud in the UK cost businesses almost £1bn, with 226 separate crown court cases involving fraud of £100,000 or more. 

Whilst the KPMG report suggests fraud is most prevalent in the public sector, employees and managers stealing from their employers follow closely behind. 

Yet this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg with many more incidents of corporate fraud left undiscovered or unreported. 

The cost-of-living crisis with employees struggling to make ends meet, the rise of hybrid and remote working together with the pressures facing businesses following a prolonged period of economic uncertainty are behind the increasing levels of employee fraud.  

Employee fraud can be notoriously difficult to spot and even more so when the individual with their ‘hand in the till’ is in a trusted position of authority and with access to company banking facilities. They are often quite adept at covering their tracks. Fast-growing businesses with small teams and where responsibilities may not be shared are particularly vulnerable.  

Warning signs of employee fraud

Whilst employee fraud can be difficult to spot there are some warning signs for employers and senior managers to look out for: 

  • Lifestyle. Business owners will have a good idea of salary levels within their company. But where an employee appears to enjoy a lifestyle beyond their means that might raise questions. 
  • Lack of segregation of duties. If an employee has too much control / there is a lack of authorisation from senior management this can allow for fraudulent activity to go unnoticed. 
  • Change in bank details. A perpetrator may change bank details to their own so that funds are paid into their account. This could cover supplier payments, customer invoices, employee payroll. 
  • Abuse of corporate credit cards. Corporate credit cards are intended for corporate expenditure. Whilst mistakes might be made, repeated personal use of corporate credits might raise red flags. 
  • Accounts inconsistencies. Excessive or unexplained transactions, increased expenses, untypical supplier payments and unreconciled bank accounts can all be signs of fraudulent activity. Having good management reporting is essential. 
  • Workplace gossip. Whilst not always reliable, keeping an ear to the ground can be a helpful way to discover fraudulent activity. 

Fighting employee fraud

In an ideal world, business owners should segregate the duties of those with access to the finances of a business, leaving no one individual with access or control. But we recognise that for many businesses that is simply not possible.  

We also recognise that successful businesses are built on trust, and this is a key factor in all employee fraud cases we come across – founders and owners need to trust key team members to do the job they are appointed to do. When that position of trust is abused, it is both a financial and emotional blow. 

So, what should business owners do when they suspect an employee of committing fraud? It is, unfortunately, not an easy question to answer. But here are a few things to consider: 

  • Do you raise suspicions straight away? If there is a risk that it involves more than one individual it may be prudent to take time to ascertain the scale of the fraud and identify those involved. Asking your accountant to conduct an ‘interim audit’ is one way to discover the extent of fraudulent activity without raising suspicions. 
  • If the case is more clear-cut, revoke access to bank accounts and accounting software/documents to ensure individuals cannot continue or hide their activity.  
  • Understand the extent of the fraud. Here your accountant can help interrogate the financial records. 

The impact of fraud can be long-lasting and there can often be wider implications, such as the impact on company tax liabilities. 

In all instances of suspected and proven fraud it is helpful to have your accountant working alongside. A specialist forensic accountant can help discover the full extent of fraudulent activity and manage its impact, as well as providing recommendations for improvements in systems and control procedures to reduce the risk of fraud in the future. 

Get in touch with us today and our Forensics team can discuss your situation in more detail.

Share this article

Email Jodie

    • yes I have read the privacy notice and am happy for Kreston Reeves to use my information

    Related people

    Email Richard

      • yes I have read the privacy notice and am happy for Kreston Reeves to use my information

      View teamSubscribe

      Subscribe to our newsletters

      Our complimentary newsletters and event invitations are designed to provide you with regular updates, insight and guidance.

        • Business, finance and tax issuesPersonal finance, tax, legal and wealth management issuesInternational business issuesCharity and not-for-profit issues

        • Academies and educationAgricultureFinancial servicesLife sciencesManufacturingProfessional practicesProperty and constructionTechnology

        • yes I agree I have read and accept the privacy policy and am happy for Kreston Reeves email communications I have selected above

        You can unsubscribe from our email communications at any time by emailing [email protected] or by clicking the 'unsubscribe' link found on all our email newsletters and event invitations.