Private UK companies employ fewer people to detect fraud than foreign firms.

Only 37% of private UK companies employ specialists to detect fraud, compared with a global average of 45%, according to new research.

Figures, released as part of Grant Thornton’s annual International Business Report, reveal that just 7% of UK businesses said they had increased staff involvement in fraud prevention in the past 12 months. This was one of the lowest rates in the world.

The number of people involved in anti-fraud activity had increased by 12% globally.

The survey covered 7,400 owners and senior managers in 33 countries, including 600 in the UK.

Phil Crooks, head of assurance services at Grant Thornton, said it was well documented that in times of economic downturn fraud tended to increase and the figures should be a wake-up call for both the accounting industry and business owners that fraud prevention must be a greater priority.

“The coming 12 months will be a good indication of whether the UK has been complacent, or has matched the threat with the appropriate level of resource,” he added.

In another recent Grant Thornton survey of UK audit partners, internal controls were deemed the most common fraud detection measure, but many UK companies appeared not to be heeding this advice.

Crooks said: “People often associate fraud with the theft of cash or assets, but it is far more common to see accounting fraud caused by managers under pressure to deliver a certain result – beyond trying to protect their jobs.”

Ken Sharp, Grant Thornton international global leader for assurance services, said: “Globally, fraud costs businesses billions of dollars each year. Whether specialists are employed or not, processes should be in place to ensure that potentially fraudulent activity is caught in the early stages.”