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A quarter of small businesses affected by crime

One in four small businesses (24 per cent) have fallen victim to business related crime in the past two years, research from Direct Line has found.

Vehicle break-ins and thefts from the workplace were the most common crimes reported by small business owners and sole traders, with more than one in twenty (seven per cent) companies falling victim to each.

More than one in ten small (10.5 per cent) small businesses reported vehicle thefts or being broken into, while 9.5 per cent have had work equipment stolen from their workplace or home.

However, 13 per cent of owners reported that their business had come under threat from customers and clients not paying bills, making it a bigger threat than any single crime.

Internet fraud also affected four per cent of small businesses, while three per cent suffered property damage and two per cent suffered from damage to tools.

The survey, which questioned small businesses owners and sole traders employing fewer than five employees with an average annual turnover of around £124,000, found that over one million of the UK's 4.5 million small businesses have been targeted by criminals in the past two years.

Direct Line estimates that a total £883 million has been claimed by some 350,000 businesses to cover costs.

Head of Direct Line for business Jazz Gakhal said: "It's alarming to see that as much as a quarter of small businesses have recently been affected by crime, though unfortunately this is always likely to increase in an economic downturn."

With the average insurance claim for business crime being £2,500, owners are under increasing pressure to insure they are sufficiently protected.

New and existing businesses are advised by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to keep their security practices up to date and recommend steps including:

  • Keeping detailed, up-to-date stock records, particularly if dealing with high value stock
  • Keeping staff alert, attentive and engaged to deter crime
  • Thinking about store layout - store high value goods appropriately
  • Cashing-up at random times to deter criminals looking for patterns that can be exploited
  • Keeping cash out of sight of customers and potential opportunist criminals