Friday, May 20 2022

WITH unprecedented levels of inflation, increasing pressure on the labor market and the cost of fuel and materials in all sectors skyrocketing at the moment, companies are operating in an increasingly difficult business environment. more volatile and unpredictable. As businesses emerge from the other side of the pandemic, business leaders and employers face challenges as they get back on their feet.

Although the above factors are well known to businesses at this stage, awareness of threats such as fraud and white collar crime is lower. While exact data is sparse for Northern Ireland – ironically a problem in itself – PwC’s latest Economic Crime Survey found that more than half of Irish businesses have been victims of economic crime over the past of the last 24 months.

With pandemic lockdowns and an increase in online shopping, as well as a reliance on internet communication, fraudsters have taken advantage of changing habits. People living in Northern Ireland are not immune to fraud and although you would expect the risk of fraud to be the same wherever you live in the UK, Action Fraud figures show that people are more than twice as likely to report being victims of any type of fraud in the east of England as those who live and work in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Fraud Forum is a new and innovative organization which aims to promote awareness of fraud among businesses and the public and service sector in Northern Ireland, to enable members to understand how best to mitigate the risks involved and to increase their knowledge of how to respond effectively. to fraud.

Launched today in a hybrid event at the MAC and online, the forum mirrors similar organizations from the UK and Ireland who are committed to educating business owners and entrepreneurs about the threat, signals and the consequences of fraud.

Made up of private sector professionals like Eversheds Sutherland, Grant Thornton and PKF-FPM, as well as public organizations like HMRC and the PSNI, the forum is a public-private-third sector partnership that seeks to fill a gap in the community of local business. by dedicating itself to the prevention and investigation of fraud and economic crime.

The government is taking concerted action to combat fraud. In his recent spring statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an investment of £48m for a new anti-fraud authority over the next three years to step up anti-fraud efforts and recoup millions of books.

Trade body UK Finance estimates that around £7 billion is lost each year to economic crime in the UK. This is a staggering number for our economy to bleed on an annual basis. At the macro level, this means a loss of investment and innovation in our wider economy. At the micro level, as we have seen with some high-profile local examples over the past few years, this means reduced hours for staff, pay cuts, layoffs and, unfortunately, in the case of personal fraud, life changing circumstances.

The Northern Ireland Fraud Forum is keen to play a key role in detecting cases of fraud, combating economic crime and raising awareness among local businesses of the consequences of fraud on their operations. This new initiative will do just that, and we encourage businesses of all shapes and sizes to get involved and help raise awareness of the dangers of fraud.

:: Bill McCluggage is Chairman of the Northern Ireland Fraud Forum

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