The value of alleged fraud fell by 36% to £724m in 2020, down from £1.1bn in 2019, despite lockdown fraudsters taking advantage of consumer uncertainty.
According to the annual KPMG Fraud Barometer, which records fraud cases of more than £100,000, the volume of cases seen by courts also declined, down by 51% in 2020, with a total of 180 cases compared to 369 cases in 2019.
KPMG suggested that if one film piracy case was successful, it would have cost the industry an estimated £200m, nearly doubling the value of fraud committed up to July 2020.
By excluding this outlier, the data for the whole of 2020 demonstrates a “significant” decrease in the value of fraud cases compared to last year.
Procurement fraud rose by 200% from £16m in 2019 to £49m the previous year, however. Additionally the value of loan and mortgage fraud “ballooned” 675% from £9.7m to over £75m with the number of cases reportedly falling by one.
Roy Waligora, head of UK investigations at KPMG, said: “As we reflect on the 2020 fraud data, the brewing backlog of untried cases continuing to build up like water behind a dam cannot be ignored.
“Businesses and the general public must be cognisant of the fact that the drop in both the value and volume of fraud cases is not reflective of a downturn in economic crime, but rather fallout following the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on the courts.”
He added: “We know that disruption and uncertainty make for inviting economic components for fraudsters. COVID-19, coupled with Brexit, which tipped the scales towards the end of 2020, means that 2021 will remain at high risk for fraud and economic crime.
“While a tsunami of fraud is still expected to hit the courts in 2021, it is evident that progressive measures, such as virtual courts, being put in place to manage the upcoming cases will likely ease the backlog.”