More than one million small companies have been the victim of business crime in the past two years, according to new research.
Almost one in four small businesses (24 per cent) have fallen prey to criminals, a survey by Direct Line for Business found.
Vehicle break-ins and thefts from the workplace were the most frequent crimes reported by small businesses and sole traders, while fraud was the biggest single criminal threat to larger companies.
Some business owners also reported that in addition to being targeted by criminals, their companies were also coming under pressure from customers or clients not paying their bills on time.
Some 13 per cent of companies interviewed reported this in the survey, making it a bigger threat than any one single crime.
Other types of business crime include cyber attacks, fraud and insider threats.
Small firms also complained of internet fraud, with four per cent falling victim to the crime. Three per cent suffered property damage and two per cent damage to tools.
The study of small business owners and sole traders, of which there are more than four-and-a-half million in the UK, also revealed that the average insurance claim resulting from a business crime was £2,500.
The research, which looked at small businesses and sole traders employing fewer than five people with an average annual turnover of around £124,000, also revealed around 360,000 crimes resulted in the company having to make an insurance claim amounting to an average of £2,500.
Jazz Gakhal, head of Direct Line for Business, said the figures were "alarming".
"The research demonstrates the importance of sufficient protection of the business as claims typically average £2,500, and an unexpected bill of this size could put huge pressure on many small business owners," he said.
Firms should explore the variety of insurance options available to ensure they have appropriate cover for all sectors of operations, he suggested.
Separate research by the Office of Cyber Security published earlier this month found cybercrime is the fastest-growing crime in the UK and costs businesses £21 billion annually.
Data from security software vendor Symantec recently revealed that it blocked more than 5.5 billion malware attacks in 2011.
Posted by Sarah Hughes