Proof positive

Identity theft is a phrase that usually conjures up images of consumers who have had their credit worthiness exploited by criminals, and used to commit frauds involving benefits, loans, credit cards and so on; and it is a huge problem. According to the government this crime now affects around 100,000 people each year, and we are increasingly likely to protect ourselves by being vigilant with our personal information and paying for identity theft insurance.

Corporate identity theft has always been a problem: according to the Metropolitan Police, fraudsters who steal a business’s identity then trade using its legitimate credit and name already cost British business over £50m a year. Unfortunately, this type of fraud can have appalling consequences for a business, ruining its credit rating and leaving it with massive charges to clear, as David Waterman discovered when the identity of his family business was stolen.
‘I signed up to a service which monitors changes at Companies House’, he explains, so that he would be alerted if there were any alterations to the circumstances of his major clients, but one of the email notifications he received revealed that his own company had changed its registered office. ‘I called Companies House assuming it was a mistake,’ he says. But it wasn’t – and setting the record straight was not easy.
When the police explained the extent of the problems to him he immediately corrected his live Companies House record, but he was unable to remove the fraudulent entry from his company filing history without going to court; something that left him with a significant legal bill. If he had signed up to Companies House Proof system at the same time as he signed up for Monitor (see below), he could have avoided all the aggravation.
Unfortunately, it is possible for almost anyone to submit paper forms to Companies House, which will change the registered address of a business (form 287), change the company secretary or director (form 288c) or appoint new directors (form 288a), and criminals do so with alarming frequency. The forms can be downloaded, and the information the fraudster needs to complete them can often be found online almost as quickly and easily: the names of permitted signatories, including a company director, secretary or administrator, can be found on many websites.
Registering the fraudulent changes with Companies House is a breeze because, because when these forms are submitted to make changes, it does not check any of the details for validity. Fortunately, businesses can take a few simple steps to protect themselves.

1) Check with Companies House that the details it holds are correct.

2) Sign up for Companies House electronic filing, and submit information online with an electronic password.

3) Subscribe to ‘Proof’, then notify Companies House that all future forms will be filed electronically, so paper ones will be rejected.

4) Sign up to Companies House ‘Monitor’ email alert system, and receive notifications about any future changes to your company details.

It is simple and inexpensive (e-filing is cheaper than paper filing), and infinitely preferable to dealing with the consequences of corporate identity theft.

If you would like to any further information please do not hesitate to contact us on 01536 713555.

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