MILTON KEYNES, England, December 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Businesses are being warned to brace themselves for a sharp increase in fraud during the run-up to Christmas.

A combination of the credit crunch, redundancies and too much alcohol at the office party can push disgruntled workers, managers and even directors over the edge and into crime, according to leading forensic computing investigator Andrew Sheldon.

People do stupid things at Christmas, says Sheldon, MD of Evidence Talks Ltd. Loaded with drink, they might return to the office convinced they are uniquely skilled to steal from their employers without getting caught.

Worse still, they might decide now is the time to branch off on their own, taking confidential pricelists, supplier details and even the entire customer database.

The risks to a business's finances and even their reputation are hugely magnified at this time of year.

Sheldon, whose Milton Keynes-based company has investigated thousands of cases of computer crime covering everything from phishing to intellectual property theft and even murder, has developed a unique insight into the minds of criminals over the years.

Everything a person does on a computer, mobile phone or memory stick can be traced and analysed, he said, and even if they don't leave behind an obvious 'smoking gun', a good forensic analyst can identify 'patterns' of behaviour which are surprisingly common, particularly in cases such as fraud.

Former policeman and now forensic laboratory manager at Evidence Talks, Richard Peake, confirmed that fraud was at its height before the beginning of holiday seasons, and urged businesses to be particularly vigilant at this time of year.

We recommend all organisations carry out a Forensic Readiness Review as recommended by the Government, said Peake.

This allows directors to mitigate the damage caused by computer crime by ensuring robust policies and procedures are in place to react immediately to an incident.

Contact: Evidence Talks Ltd +44(0)845-125-4400, Andrew Sheldon (24-hour mobile): +44(0)7887-516801