One in four small businesses 'a victim of crime'

Turns out that small companies are an unlucky lot. More than one million of them have been the victim of business crime in the past two years, according to new research by Direct Line for Business.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

If you are a small business owner or sole trader - and there are more than four and a half million of you in the UK alone - then a whopping 24% of you have been a victim of crime at some point in the last two years. Which means that there are an awful lot of small-business-hating criminals out there. Or one, very committed, small-business-hating criminal. Or perhaps (more likely), SMEs don't have quite the security-fenced, Doberman-guarded, Mission Impossible laser net-style set-up boasted by giant multi-million pound corporations...

Indeed, we're not talking about the removal by stealth of NOC lists or bags of priceless gems: the average insurance claim made by a small business over the past two years is worth abouf £2,500. Most of the crimes reported are fairly petty in nature, with vehicle break-ins and thefts from the workplace the most common. About 10% of the small businesses surveyed have been victims of vehicle theft - or simply been broken into. Some 9.5% have had work equipment stolen from site premises or their home. Small firms have also been targeted by internet fraudsters, with 4% falling victim to cyber-crime. Offline, 3% have suffered property damage and 2% damage to tools. 

But, believe it or not, creeping, be-stubbled men in masks and black-and-white striped shirts are the least of an SME's worries. The biggest single threat facing small firms are actually closer to home - their customers. Around one in eight (13%) of companies interviewed revealed that their customers or clients have a habit of not paying their bills.

So, before you leave your white van tonight, make sure your valuables and tools are out of sight. And, for those without state-of-the-art security on your premises, consider a DIY alternative - anyone remember the chicken poo catapault? Or, perhaps just initiate a 'pay in advance' scheme, ensuring that your customers can't just do a runner. Tricky in a posh restuarant, admittedly, but necessity is the mother of invention...

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