According to a recent statement from Companies House up to 100 companies every month have their identity stolen and misused. Yet it’s surprisingly easy to protect against. How is it done?
We tend to think of identity (ID) theft as affecting individuals having their computers hacked or their dustbins raided for personal information. However, it’s just as easy, if not more so, for fraudsters to use yourcompany’s name and credentials for their shady activities. Naturally, this could damageyour company’s good name or even temporarily ruin its credit rating.
Changing your company’s details
The problem with company ID theft is that it’s relatively simple to commit and generally not quickly spotted. Typically fraudsters will change your company’s registered office address and the name of at least one director.
The genuine details from forms etc. you’ve submitted to Companies House (CH) can be found because this information is open to anyone through the CH website. Using these details the fraudsters can complete forms notifying CH of the changes they want to make to your company’s records. You’re only likely to become aware of what’s happened once they have misused your company’s name.
Tip. Use CH’s PROOF system to make it very difficult, if not impossible, for fraudsters to change and so misuse your company’s name.
Companies House updated PROOF
In an attempt to get more companies to use PROOF, CH updated its guidance in December 2015 on how to register for and use the scheme. It’s free to use and only needs a few minutes to set up. The guidance now includes a short YouTube video demonstration on how to add your company to the scheme (see The next step ).
Are there any restrictions?
According to CH the only situation in which you can’t register to use PROOF is where there’s an ongoing dispute between the company officers, i.e. directors and companysecretary. This doesn’t mean a day-to-day disagreement about business decisions, but rather the type of dispute that might lead to a director or company secretary resigning or being forced out.
How does it work?
PROOF requires you to submit certain CH forms online rather than on paper, e.g. the annual return and notice of change of directors’ details. CH will tell you what forms are covered when you sign up. Once registered, CH will accept forms etc. only from specified persons within your company.
If you don’t use PROOF
Whether you choose to use PROOF or not, there are steps you can and should take to check that your company’s ID hasn’t been stolen.
Tip. Appoint someone to check your company’s details on CH’s website, say, once a month. It’s a simple matter that will take no more than a couple of minutes, but could save you from no end of trouble (see The next step ).
Reproduced with the permission of Indicator – FL Memo Limited. For subscription information call 01233 653500;