Crime 'costs firms £722m a year'

SMALL and medium-sized businesses are suffering staggering losses of at least £722 million at the hands of criminals, according to research just released by AXA Insurance. But firms tendency to under-claim means the true cost is probably much higher, the

SMALL and medium-sized businesses are suffering staggering losses of at least £722 million at the hands of criminals, according to research just released by AXA Insurance.

But firms' tendency to under-claim means the true cost is probably much higher, the insurer said.

Researchers found that theft was the biggest problem for small companies, accounting for 45 per cent of all crime claim settlements, followed by arson at 42 per cent.

Companies made 27 per cent more crime claims in the last quarter of 2005 than in the quarter before that.

Malicious damage was the next most prevalent crime, accounting for 12 per cent of all claims.

"The findings demonstrate just how much of a problem crime is for small and medium-sized businesses," said Neil Mercier, of AXA.

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"Crime accounts for one-fifth of our entire claim book and while most are low-level inexpensive crimes such as petty theft and malicious damage, some claims run into tens of thousands of pounds and can put enterprises out of business entirely.

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