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Does working from home create a higher risk of fraud?

Fraud in mid-sized UK businesses rose by over 20% in 2021. Working from home has been blamed for the rise, but accidental fraud could also be part of the cause.

According to research by accountancy firm BDO, more than eight in 10 mid-sized businesses experienced fraud in 2021, up from six in 10 in 2020.

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According to a report in The Times, the move to working from home widened the opportunity for fraud.  

Ryan Demaray, managing director SMB EMEA at software company SAP Concur UK, said working from home has increased fraudulent activity, however a lack of understanding about it means that incorrect and accidental claims are also prevalent.

He said: “The increase in fraud last year was a result of a rise in cyberattacks and the introduction of new initiatives that can be manipulated by fraudsters." He added that working from home had forced much business interaction and communication online "where it’s easier to inflate, mischaracterise and falsify claims both intentionally and accidentally".

Giving an example, Demaray explained that his company’s research shows that over half (56%) of employees in England said they thought it was acceptable to over expense or disregard company expense policy.

Further, he added just over a third (34%) of UK businesses give employees fraud awareness and prevention training.

Demaray said: “In some of the schemes, the fraud is intentional. But, in many cases, it’s accidental or a result of confusion as to what is or is not acceptable.”

The solution, he said is for businesses to sharpen their fraud protections.

"Businesses need effective technological detection solutions in place for healthier and more accurate expense fraud checks. This can increase accountability, boost compliance, and reduce human errors to help ensure organisations meet the highest levels of fiscal responsibility."