One in four businesses affected by fraud in past year

A quarter of Alberta businesses have been affected by fraud in the past year, with the figure jumping to nearly one-half when only retailers are considered.

A quarter of Alberta businesses have been affected by fraud in the past year, with the figure jumping to nearly one-half when only retailers are considered.

These are among the findings of a survey conducted for ATB Financial last month.

Twenty-five per cent of small and medium-size business operators or owners canvassed said they had been the victim of a recent fraud or attempted fraud, including acts of deception or deceit, forgery, cyber-crime, information theft or theft of physical assets. Of those affected, 41 per cent reported experiencing two to five incidents of fraud during the past year.

The average financial hit for those who suffered a loss was $24,000.

The retail industry was the most frequent target, with 49 per cent of respondents from that sector confirming that they had experienced an act of fraud or attempted fraud in the previous year. Businesses in the energy and construction industries each reported a 26 per cent rate of victimization.

Credit or debit card fraud was the most common problem, at 29 per cent. Theft of property, and phishing or email hacking, each came in at 27 per cent. Supplier fraud was reported by nine per cent of the businesses, telephone-related fraud by seven per cent, and identity fraud, and theft of proprietary information or intellectual property, each affected five per cent of respondents.

When it came to detecting fraud, 16 per cent of the businesses surveyed said a financial institution spotted the problem. Thirteen per cent said they discovered it themselves, 12 per cent credited data-mining or analysis, 11 per cent said employees uncovered the issue, 11 per cent said it came to light during a scheduled audit and seven per cent said a surprise audit revealed the fraud.

The ATB Financial survey, which is conducted quarterly, also asked business operators about their outlook for the economy and their business. Eighty-seven per cent predicted that their business would be the same or better in six months, down two percentage points from the previous survey.

When it came to the economy, 94 per cent thought things would stay the same or improve, one percentage point fewer than in the last quarter.

The ATB Financial survey involved 300 owners of small or medium-sized businesses.

They were contacted randomly by telephone between June 2 and 16.

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