Fraudsters are increasingly using the latest hi-tech equipment to attack the region's businesses, and if they fail to heighten their vigilance against these "e-fraudsters", they could be vulnerable.

This is the view of Ernst & Young's recently recruited computer forensics expert, John Holden, who is warning businesses in the region that fraudsters are increasingly using high-technology as a tool to commit business related fraud.

He said: "There has been a significant increase in the amount of fraud being conducted using leading-edge technology, and as the tools of the fraudster become even more advanced, businesses need to take the necessary precautions to protect their assets from such threats.

"While the frauds themselves haven't changed, it is the sophisticated tools which they are using that are making these fraud scams difficult to monitor and identify."

Mr Holden has joined the Birmingham-based professional services firm to head up its legal technology services team, which specialises in computer forensics.

He has a wealth of experience in this field, having spent 13 years with the Cheshire Police, where he set up its computer investigation unit.

Following this, he worked at QinetiQ for three and half years, working on national law enforcement projects.

Mr Holden's appointment is part of Ernst & Young's investment programme into computer forensic investigations which also include electronic evidence services for legal cases.

He said: "Today, nearly 80 per cent of documents produced by businesses never hit printed format.

"This shift resulted in a change in the legal landscape and lawyers are now forced to consider electronic as well as paper-based evidence in legal cases.

"In response to this, the computer forensics team has invested more than £1 million in cutting-edge technology to support electronic evidence services."

Jonathan Middup, head of Ernst & Young's Birmingham investigation team, also said: "John's knowledge and expertise in the field of computer forensics is second to none, and his appointment is integral to establishing a fraud investigation centre of excellence here in Birmingham.

"We are increasingly gaining client mandates for forensic accounting investigations where the computers are central to the case, and John is ideally placed to tackle these head on."