Byline: Anna Blackaby
When the economy takes a turn for the worse, the fraud investigation business booms.
With an estimated pounds 38 billion worth of fraud taking place a year, and the squeeze on police resources pushing complex investigations onto the back burner, private investigators and fraud management specialists are seeing a surge in demand for their services.
It's this backdrop that has prompted Dave Churchill, who previously ran the West Midlands Police Economic Crime Unit, to join forces with two other ex-police investigators to fill a gap in the market looking into mid-level corporate fraud of up to pounds 10 million.
During his time in the force Mr Churchill investigated fraud ranging from public sector con artists to whitecollar employees scamming their firms.
He also worked on the notorious postal votes scandal in Birmingham in 2004 where six Labour councillors were found guilty of offences that a leading judge said "would disgrace a banana republic".
He has now joined forces with former policemen David Graves and Samuel Sittlington to set up The Fraud Company, as the three believe a large part of the fraud market is currently underserved.
Each previously ran their own individual firms, but have now pooled resources to appeal to clients who need access to more expertise than a single investigator but are seeking help below the Big Four price range.
Coming at a time when police forces are increasingly stretched - and some have announced they will not be investigating certain types of fraud - private specialists are moving in fast on what was formerly police territory. Mr Churchill said: "Lots of frauds are never prosecuted or investigated.
"Even if they are prosecuted it takes time and you find that lots of police forces haven't got the resources or the will to focus on fraud as a key area for investigation.
"That's not being critical but it's saying that they have other priorities which they have to focus on and fraud tends to take a back seat.
"Also a lot of my clients have serious misgivings about going to the police and one of those is they lose control of what's going on.
"They would rather look at a civil route to try to recover any losses."
Fraudsters target companies in a number of different ways - and they can be active from within the firm or from outside.
Many are employees, who can commit offences ranging from theft, taking backhanders or fiddling expenses to more complex frauds such as setting up false invoicing systems or even creating fake members of staff whose pay goes directly into the fraudster's bank account.
Mr Churchill said it was surprising how few companies had checks and balances in place to avoid staff seizing the …