Fraud and economic crime

During the recent ten year period, reported fraud crime has more than tripled. During 2015, approximately 185,000 fraud offences were reported, as well as 10,300 welfare benefit offences. 3.5 per cent of the population state that they were exposed to fraud during 2015.

Economic crime is a collective term which encompasses many types of offences. The most common economic crimes are tax offences and accounting offences.

Economic crime includes, for example, accounting offences, different types of tax offences, embezzlement, insider trading, breach of fiduciary duty, and bribery. The number of reported economic offences is largely determined by the level of monitoring activity conducted by public authorities such as the Swedish Tax Agency. Most persons suspected of offences are middle-aged men. The offences are most often conducted within a commercial activity.

Percentage exposed to fraud

Percentage of individuals in the population (16–79 years of age) exposed to fraud, 2005 – 2015. Source: SCS

In the Swedish Crime Survey (NTU - Nationella trygghetsundersökningen), 3.5 per cent of the population (16–79 years of age) stated that they had been exposed to fraud, which corresponds to approximately 261,000 individuals. This is an increase as compared with 2014, when 3.1 per cent of the population stated that they had been exposed. However, fraud offences show a certain upwards trend during the measured period. Most people who were exposed to fraud during 2015 (85%) state that it occurred on a single occasion. The number of incidents in the population was approximately 352,000 in 2015.

Gender and age

A greater number of men than women are exposed to fraud, and have been throughout the measured period (4.0% for men compared with 2.9% for women). Unlike other offences against the individual, exposure to fraud is relatively evenly allocated across the age spectrum, but least frequent for the age groups 65 – 74 (2.1%) and 75 – 79 (1.5%).

Victimisation of different groups in respect of fraud

Persons with not more than a compulsory level of education have been less exposed to fraud (2.4%) than persons with an upper secondary level of education or post-upper secondary level of education (3.7% and 3.7%, respectively)

Persons born abroad, or born in Sweden with two parents born abroad, represent a higher percentage of victims of fraud (4.3% and 4.1% respectively) as compared with persons born in Sweden with at least one parent born in Sweden (3.2%). Single parents are exposed to fraud to a significantly greater extent (6.5%) than single persons without children (4.2%) or couples with or without children (3.0% and 2.7%, respectively).

Exposure to fraud is also more common among residents of multiple dwelling blocks (4.2%) than among residents of detached or semi-detached dwellings (2.7%), and among residents of major metropolitan regions (4.1%) than among residents of other larger cities (3.3%), in small towns, and in rural areas (2.7%).

Circumstances surrounding fraud

One metric for the severity of fraud is the value out of which the person was defrauded. It is uncommon for a private individual to be defrauded out of SEK 100,000 or more, but it happens in approximately 3 per cent of the cases. It is most common to be defrauded out of SEK 2,000 – 9,999, the amount stated by 33 per cent of the victims of fraud. Being defrauded out of SEK 500 – 1,999 occurs in 30 per cent of the cases. It is more or less equally common to be defrauded out of an amount which is less than SEK 500 (17%).

There are a number of different methods for defrauding private persons in respect of money or valuable items. The Swedish Crime Survey does not provide a complete picture of which methods are used but sheds light on a few of the most discussed. Some form of fraud via the Internet (46% of the cases) occurs often. In two out of five of the cases (41%), bank or credit card fraud occurs, for example in the form of skimming.

Reported frauds

Number of reported frauds and other impropriety pursuant to Chapter 9 of the Swedish Penal Code, 2006 – 2015. Source: Reported offences

Reported offences

During 2015, approximately 185,000 frauds were reported (Chapter 9, Swedish Penal Code). This is an increase of 29,700 offences (+19%) as compared with 2014. Most types of fraud have increased. Computer fraud showed the largest increase, by 56 per cent, to 67,100 reported offences, as well as fraud by use of a fraudulant invoice which rose to 14,300 offences (+20 %).

During the most recent ten-year period, the number of reported fraud offences has more than tripled. The increase in exposure to fraud is largely dependent on the increase in Internet usage and the way in which technological developments have contributed to the ability to commit increasing types of fraud.

The inclination to report varies for different types of fraud, which is a result of differences in circumstances in conjunction with the offence, as well as the ability of public authorities and private parties to detect offences against them. Fraud is typically a serial offence, whereby a single fraudster can commit thousands of reported offences during a short period. Individual types of fraud may thus show significant differences in statistics from year to year.

Number of reported economic crimes

Reported offences against the Tax Offences Act (including aggravated tax offences), as well as reported accounting offences and offences under the Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act. The Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act entered into force on 1 August 2007 and is shown from 2008. Source: Reported offences

In respect of economic crimes reported during 2015, approximately 10,300 were welfare benefit offences, 14,500 were offences under the Tax Offences Act (including aggravated tax offences), 14,600 were accounting offences, and 1,690 were embezzlement.

The Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act entered into force on 1 August 2007 and has been applied in relation to fraud offences directed at certain authorities on the national and municipal level. A a consequence, these offences, that were previously included in the fraud statisitic, are now presented separately as offences against the Welfare Benefits Act. During 2015, 10,300 welfare benefit offences were reported, an increase by 19 per cent as compared with 2014. Offences committed against Försäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency) constitute more than half of the total of welfare benefit offences; these inceased by 2,710 (+75 %). Since 2009, the number of  reported welfare benefit offences have increased by 10 per cent (+941 offences).

Cleared fraud and economic crimes

Person-based clearance rate² for fraud, offences under the Tax Offences Act (including aggravated tax offences), as well as reported accounting offences and offences under the Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act, 2006 – 2015. The Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act entered into force on 1 August 2007 and is shown from 2008. Source: Processed offences

Processed offences

In 2015, 199,000 fraud offences (Chapter 9, Swedish Penal Code) were processed¹. Investigations were commenced for 46 per cent (90,600) of the processed offences, while 54 per cent (108,000) were dismissed with no investigation.

A majority of the processed fraud offences were dismissed with no investigation during 2015, as opposed to the previous year. This is explained by an increase in the number of fraud offences dismissed with no investigation (31,200) which was comparatively larger than the increase in the number of fraud offences where investigations were commenced (+4,660). 

Investigations were limited in 4 per cent (8,330 offences), of which investigation was limited in almost all offences (7,680) after investigation commenced.

One-quarter of the processed fraud offences had at least one person registered as reasonably suspected of the offence. There were 21,100 person-based clearances.

The person-based clearance rate² for fraud offences was 11 per cent in 2015, the same as compared with 2014. Compared with ten years ago, the rate has declined by 7 percentage points. The annual variation is explained, in part, by the fact that fraud offences are, for the most part, serial offences, which means that a single perpetrator may be behind thousands of crimes against an equal number of complaining witnesses during a short time.

The conviction rate² amounted to 25 per cent in 2015, an increase by 3 percentage points as compared with the previous year.

Persons suspected of fraud

The number of persons suspected of fraud and other improprieties (Chapter 9 of the Swedish Penal Code) 2006 – 2015. Source: Persons suspected of offences

Persons suspected of offences

In 2015, 6,550 persons were suspected of fraud offences (Chapter 9, Swedish Penal Code) of various types, which is a decrease of 219 individuals, or 3 per cent, as compared with 2014. Compared with 2006, the number of persons suspected of fraud offences has decreased by 10 per cent.

Persons suspected of economic crimes

The number of persons suspected of offences under the Tax Offences Act (including aggravated tax offences), as well as the number of accounting offences and offences under the Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act. The Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act entered into force on 1 January 2008. Source: Persons suspected of offences

In respect of economic crime, 2,760 persons were suspected of accounting offences in 2015, while 1,320 persons were suspected of offences under the Tax Offences Act – a 45 per cent reduction as compared with 2013. In addition, 829 persons were suspected of offences under the Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act.

Convictions for fraud

The number of convictions for fraud as the primary offence, 2006 – 2016. Source: Persons found guilty of offences

Convictions

In 2015, there were 2,190 conviction decisions³ for fraud (Chapter 9 of the Swedish Penal Code), which is 321 fewer decisions than the preceding year. This corresponds to a reduction of 13 per cent since 2014. The trend was level 2006 – 2010, with an average of 3,160 decisions. The number of convictions have since decreased from 2010 – 2015. In total, the number of convictions for various forms of fraud offences as a primary offence decreased by 912 convictions, or 29 per cent, since 2006.

The most common sanctions for fraud are probation or prison.

Persons found guilty of offences for economic crimes

The number of conviction decisions for offences under the Tax Offences Act, accounting offences, and offences under the Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act as a primary offence, 2006 – 2015. The Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act entered into force on 1 January 2008. Source: Persons found guilty of offences

During 2015, approximately 400 persons were convicted of offences under the Tax Offences Act as the primary offence. In addition, approximately 1,300 persons were found guilty of various offences against creditors as the primary offence; these were almost exclusively accounting offences. Almost 500 persons were convicted of embezzlement and other breaches of fiduciary duty as the primary offence. During the same year, there were 350 convictions in respect of offences under the Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act.

¹) The statistic for processed offences reports the number of reported offences where the police, public prosecutor, or other investigatory authority has taken a decision regarding the offence.

²) Person-based clearance means that a person suspected of the offence has been tied to the offence through an indictment, the issuance of a summary sanction order, or the issuance of a waiver of prosecution.

  • The person-based clearance rate reports the number of offences with person-based clearances during one year as a percentage of the number of processed offences during the same year. As from 2014, an adjusted person-based clearance rate is reported. The metric is essentially structured in the same way as previously, however, it is calculated based on all processed offences instead of all reported offences.
  • The conviction rate reports the number of person-based clearances during one year as a per cent of all investigated offences, excluding offences with limitations of investigation during the same period.

³) The statistic regarding persons found guilty of offences reports the number of convictions which were issued during the year. "Conviction decision" means a conviction in a district court or decision of a public prosecutor, such as a summary sanction order or waiver of prosecution, during one calendar year. A single individual may be found guilty of an offence in different ways and on several occasions during one year. A conviction decision may contain decisions regarding several offences and several sanctions.

Facts

  • 185,000 fraud offences (2015)
  • 14,600 accounting offences reported (2015)
  • 14,500 tax offences reported (2015)
  • 10,300 offences under the Welfare Benefits (Offences) Act reported (2015)
  • 2,660 persons found guilty with fraud as the primary offence (2013)
  • 1,690 embezzlement offences reported (2015)
  • 40 per cent person-based clearance rate for accounting offences (2015)
  • 11 per cent person-based clearance rate for fraud (2015)