Press release

Help for small businesses to stamp out fraud

New research helping small businesses protect themselves against fraudsters has been published today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The new in-depth study, carried out by the national fraud authority (NFA) and the department for business, innovation and skills (BIS), categorises small businesses by their vulnerability to fraud to determine how and why they become victims.

The research, which found a quarter of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) surveyed had suffered at least one type of fraud or internet crime in the past year, will help develop targeted fraud prevention strategies to help businesses protect themselves and their profits and to trade online confidently.

This research builds on work led by the NFA to introduce stronger anti-fraud controls to business and disrupt and punish fraudsters.

Conducted as part of the national cyber security programme, the research recognises the importance of SMEs to the UK economy, and shows business that knowing how to use new technology and the internet securely can help protect their revenues and drive growth.

Home office minister for crime prevention Jeremy Browne said:

‘For too long online fraud has been seen as a victimless crime or simply a cost of doing business in an internet age, but left unchecked it can cost people their livelihoods.

‘That is why we are determined to combat the fraudsters and scammers who damage British businesses and prey on vulnerable customers, pushing up costs for us all.

‘Part of the solution lies in understanding the extent and nature of the problem and that’s why this research is so valuable in helping the NFA help business strengthen their response to fraud and stop them becoming victims.’

The NFA is a home office agency which works with the counter-fraud community to make fraud more difficult to commit in and against the UK.
Working with SMEs is just one part of a range of ongoing awareness and prevention activities aimed at multiple sectors under fighting fraud together - the national plan to reduce and combat fraud in the UK.

This latest research showed that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of SMEs that had experienced fraud were concerned about becoming a victim again, but many may also be underestimating the threat with one in 10 failing to take any action after suffering an incident. Other findings include:

  • experience of fraud being 11 per cent higher for those trading online;
  • computer hacking being the most common crime type, with 23 per cent of SMEs responding that they had experienced it at some point in their trading history, followed by card not present fraud (19 per cent) and employee fraud (18 per cent);
  • hacking also caused the greatest concern, with 55 per cent of small businesses either very or quite concerned about it. This was followed by corporate identity fraud (43 per cent);
  • awareness alone does not provide enough protection for SMEs, as the majority of victims (55 per cent) were aware of the fraud type before they suffered it;
  • around 12 per cent of victims reported losing more than 1 per cent of their turnover;
  • after suffering fraud, only just over half (53 per cent) reported it.

The NFA and BIS have used the findings of this research to identify six distinct SME segments defined by factors such as awareness of different fraud types, perception of and actual risk, business size and use of online trading. The national small business fraud segmentation will help determine exactly how attitudes, behaviour and other business characteristics contribute to fraud and internet crime risk.

This segmentation will be used to develop activities targeting vulnerable small businesses to increase their capability to prevent fraud and enable them to fully exploit new technology to expand their business.

David Willetts, minister for universities and science, said:

‘Small and medium sized businesses are vital to the UK economy and we want to help them exploit new opportunities. That is why they are an important part of the government’s national cyber security strategy.

‘This research means we can target support at SMEs so they can fully reap the benefits of technology whilst minimising the threats, helping them grow faster and perform better.’

There is already significant support available to small businesses suffering fraud or online crime. For those who want to use the internet confidently, safely and securely the NFA runs Action Fraud, a national service for individuals and businesses to report fraud and internet crime and obtain advice on how best to protect themselves.

Get safe online is a joint initiative between the government, law enforcement and leading businesses, which provides computer users and small businesses with free, independent advice on using the internet safely.

Notes to Editors

1. The national small business fraud segmentation is today published at

2. The research consisted of a qualitative stage and then a quantitative stage of 2,392 interviews with key SME decision makers. For the purposes of the research, an SME was defined as a business with up to and including 249 employees.

3. The research follows on from the success of the NFA’s national fraud segmentation of consumers, published in June 2011, which was used to inform the recent successful The devil’s in your details campaign. This awareness raising campaign consisted of online videos and a facebook application targeted at two consumer groups to highlight the importance of protecting personal information.

4. Prevention activity is overseen by the fraud prevention awareness steering group, which is led by the NFA and comprises partners in government, law enforcement and the private and voluntary sectors with responsibility for coordinating and maximising the impact of fraud prevention initiatives.

5. Any small business concerned about, or suffering from, fraud or internet crime should visit action fraud at or call on 0300 123 2040

6. For more information, or to request interviews, please call the home office press office on 0207 035 3848.

Published 18 September 2012