The total value of reported fraud in Britain has more than doubled in a year to almost £800 million, according to a new report.
Figures released by accountants and business advisers BDO Stoy Hayward showed it increased from £ 331 million in 2003 to £756 million in 2004.
However, the number of cases involving fraud of more than £50,000 increased only "modestly" from 211 to 229.
Analysis showed that the main motive for the crime was not desperate financial need, but the desire for a lavish lifestyle.
Andrew Durant, fraud investigation specialist at the firm, said: "Many people think fraudsters are motivated by financial need caused by difficult circumstances - such as illness, divorce or a financial crisis.
"However, our research shows such causes are only mentioned in a small number of cases. The typical fraudster is already comfortably off and motivated by the desire for a more lavish lifestyle. Greed, not misfortune, appears to be the main motivator."
Mr Durant said the typical sentence for those committing frauds of more than £1 million was 3.3 years in "stark contrast" to the US where large frauds could lead to sentences of more than 20 years.
This left a "big question mark" over whether sentencing in the UK provided enough of a deterrent or reflected the damage fraud caused to people.
"You just have to look at the plundering of the Maxwell pension fund to see the human cost of this crime.
"I have seen fraud destroy businesses and jobs, rob people of their livelihoods, and often leave victims with severe depression. It is certainly not the victimless crime so often portrayed."
The value of fraud would continue to increase at a "dramatic rate", he predicted, with organised crime moving into the area because of the large amounts to be made.
Mr Durant added: "I am also expecting the proposed deregulation of gambling to lead to a rise in lower value frauds over the next few years with more cases of people seeking to cover their debts or, in some cases, simply finance their addiction."
Figures showed that 60 per cent of cases where a motive for fraud were reported it was the " desire for a lavish lifestyle".
Fraud continued to be male-dominated, with men responsible for 86 per cent of the crimes, but women were becoming involved in larger value frauds.