laptopDave Thompson/PA Wire

Karen Hindle, a 43-year-old HMRC co-ordinator working in the Southampton office, has been jailed for stealing money from the taxpayers she had been assigned to chase for outstanding tax. She stole over £12,000 and has been jailed for 12 months.

But how could she do this? And is there anyone honest left in Britain?


How could she?

Hindle worked for the debt management and banking division, chasing up tax debts, and contacting people to ask them to pay. She used her position to get hold of bank details of those she was chasing. She then stole money directly from their bank accounts.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, HMRC got wind that something was wrong when they noticed suspicious transactions in the accounts of her victims after they had paid their outstanding tax.

When police raided her home they found the details of 50 taxpayers written on HMRC Post-It notes.

The Southern Daily Echo quoted Prosecutor Gareth Munday, who said: "Essentially what she did was to note the debit card details for the information which she had to pursue. In a flagrant breach of trust, she would keep those details and take them home."

She then used the details to make 67 internet purchases of between £31 and £421. They came to a total of over £12,000.

The Court also heard that Hindle had separately claimed £4,000 in benefits that she wasn't entitled to, and made a false application for a £15,000 loan from Sainsbury's Bank.

She was jailed for 12 months. The defence argued for a deferred or suspended sentence, for the sake of Hindle's teenage daughter, but Judge Peter Ralls QC said that given the nature of the abuse of trust: "Only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate."

Not alone

This story has come hard on the heels of news that Lynne Turner, the 50-year-old clerk to Hughenden Parish Council in Buckinghamshire, has been jailed for stealing £28,000 from the council, after her debts spiralled out of control. We reported yesterday that there had been a spate of stories of everyone from Post Office assistants to bank managers who were caught with their hand in the till.

And these aren't just a few high-profile cases. According to fraud experts CIFAS, fraud committed by employees rose an astonishing 40% during 2012, with 539 fraud cases identified during the year.

There was a 22% spike in the number of staff doing something dishonest in order to make themselves better off (like stealing from customers or the business). There has also been a rise in staff stealing customers' data for sale.

Why?

As the economic climate has become tougher, many formerly honest people are turning to this sort of crime. In many instances, extreme debt problems kick-start the criminal activity.

However, as Richard Hurley, the CIFAS spokesman said: "Economic hardship as a motivation for some fraudsters might generate a level of understanding, but the heartless and exploitative nature of many frauds (many of the instances relate to theft from elderly or vulnerable people's accounts) only underlines the fact that the perpetrators' actions have much in common with muggers in the street."