MORE than half of Scotland’s businesses have been hit by economic crime in the past year according to experts at PwC, which has launched what it calls a Fraud Academy to help tackle the issue.

The accountancy giant warned fraud appears to be on the rise in Scotland with the bill running into millions annually. Insiders are responsible for around on in three of the crimes detected.

The academy will run events at which expert speakers will offer insights into subjects such as the psychology of the internal fraudster and how firms can protect themselves against dishonest employees.

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Carol Rarity, head of forensic accounting in Scotland for PwC, said: ““Our surveys, work and expertise have found that at least half of Scottish companies have experienced some form of economic crime in the past year - and around a third of these crimes are at the hands of an internal perpetrator.”

The most common internal frauds concern expenses payments, procurement or payroll costs, where employees have access to information they can use.

PwC’ thinks fraud is becoming more common. It is affecting a wide range of industries.

Cybercrime has been increasing with growing use of the net for transactions. It is mainly committed by outsiders.

The scale of the problem may be much greater than reports suggest given the likelihood that much crime goes undetected. Many firms are reluctant to report crime for fear of suffering reputational damage.

But they should respond to all cases of fraud.

“The profile of most fraudsters is they start off with something small, it’s a test payment, and if they get away with it they will start building it up,” said Ms Rarity.

The academy will hold launch events with expert speakers in coming weeks followed by sessions every four months.It will issue updates between events.