Frauds totalling $98 million were brought before the courts last year, a report released today by international auditing firm KPMG reveals.
Experts believe that figure could double by the end of next year as white-collar crime from the financial pressures of the global recession begins to appear in our courts.
The KPMG Fraud Barometer shows a significant rise in fraud in the second half of last year, a figure that is expected to continue rising sharply.
Fraud cases before the courts between July and December totalled $76.1 million - a significant leap from the $21.9 million uncovered between January and June.
But KPMG forensics partner Mark Leishman believes the worst is yet to come.
"We are still yet to see the full impact of the economic situation," he said.
"The frauds that are being investigated now mostly are not frauds that have come about because of the global financial crisis, they're frauds that pre-date that.
"These are frauds that were being committed in the good times.
"My view is we're yet to really see the frauds that people are now committing in the bad times."
Mr Leishman said he would not be surprised if the 2010 fraud figures doubled to $200 million.
The Fraud Barometer counts the cost of frauds that have been uncovered and are before the courts and does not take into account frauds under $100,000, and Mr Leishman said there was a lot more fraud unaccounted for.
The report shows the most commonly increasing types of fraud include falsifying documents for bank loans and tax evasion.
"We've noticed a considerable increase in the number of loan frauds during 2009, suggesting that a great proportion of bank customers are feeling the pressure of the economic downturn."
Mr Leishman said the number of frauds caught out had remained quite constant, but the average thief was netting more money now - particularly if in an upper-management position.
The report says: "It is clear that the biggest threat to organisations when it comes to fraud is from those who are in the most trusted positions.
"Fraudulent managers netted, on average, about $1 million per fraud, double that of lower-level employees, with $500,000."
The report added: "The latest figures again reinforce that management-level staff tend to be more likely to commit fraud than lower-level employees.
"When they do commit fraud [managers] generally steal far higher amounts due to their access to information, authorisation capabilities and ability to understand and override internal controls."
TOP FRAUD TYPES
1. Fraudulent loans - $34 million.
2. Investor money stolen - $20 million.
3. Tax evasion - $6 million.
4. Accounting fraud - $5 million.
5. Creditor money stolen - $4 million.