Business fraud is on the increase as the UK economy continues to slide, according to a new report by BDO Stoy Hayward.

Its latest FraudTrack research shows that fraud levels have risen faster in the first half of 2008 than at any other time since 2005.

In the last six months, fraud has cost UK businesses over £705 million, an increase of 74 per cent on the same period last year.

Employee fraud now accounts for 11 per cent of all fraud compared to 2.5 per cent in 2007, with the finance and insurance sectors experiencing the highest levels.

BDO Stoy Hayward warns that fraud is often being committed by internal management and third parties such as suppliers.

"The combination of spiralling personal debt and desperate employees spells real danger for business," said Simon P Bevan, head of the firm’s fraud services team.

He urged employers to tighten up their anti-fraud procedures, insisting the problem is "certain" to grow as economic conditions worsen.

According to the UK’s fraud prevention service CIFAS, a survey conducted by Leicester University found that 70 per cent of employees would commit fraud if they knew they would not be found out.