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%) have been targeted by criminals, Direct Line For Business found.
Vehicle break-ins and thefts from the workplace were the most frequent crimes reported, with more than one in 10 (10.5%) reporting vehicle thefts or being broken into, and 9.5% having had work equipment stolen from site premises or their home.
Many business owners reported that in addition to being targeted by criminals, their companies were also coming under pressure from customers or clients not paying their bills.
Around one in eight (13%) companies interviewed reported this in the survey, making it a bigger threat than any single crime.
Small firms also complained of internet fraud, with 4% falling victim to the crime, while 3% suffered property damage and 2% damage to tools.
The research, which looked at small businesses and sole traders employing less than five people with an average annual turnover of around £124,000, of which there are more than four and a half million in the UK, also revealed around 360,000 crimes, or one third of the total crimes against businesses, 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: “It’s alarming to see that as much as a quarter of small businesses have recently been affected by crime, though unfortunately this is always likely to increase in an economic downturn.
“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.
“Businesses should explore the variety of insurance options available to ensure they have appropriate cover for all sectors of operations.”