Friday, 1 April 2016

Is your company name safe?

Figures show that up to 100 companies every month have their identities stolen and misused – but would you know how to stop it?

Eliot Hibbert leads the Corporate Commercial team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, and said there were some surprisingly simple steps companies could take to protect themselves.

“Generally most people think that identity theft is a problem for people who have their computers hacked or their dustbins raided for personal information.

“But it’s actually just as common, if not more so, for fraudsters to target companies and use their name and credentials illegally. In order to protect your business – and your reputation – it’s vital that company owners take action as soon as possible.”

Eliot said the difficulty with corporate identity theft was that although it was fairly simple to commit, it was generally not uncovered very quickly.

“It’s easy for fraudsters to obtain your company’s details as the information is open to anyone through the Companies House website – and usually they will start by filling in forms to change your company’s registered office address and the name of at least one director. This means of course that you’re not likely to realise what’s happened until they’ve actually misused your company name.”

Eliot said business owners should sign up to the Companies’ House PROOF system to help make it difficult, if not impossible, for fraudsters to intervene.

“The only reason you may not be able to register to use PROOF is if there’s any kind of ongoing dispute between company directors – not a simple everyday dispute, but a serious one that could lead to a director or company secretary resigning.”

Under the PROOF scheme, companies need to submit certain Companies House forms online such as the annual tax return and notice of any changes in directors’ details – and once a company is registered, forms will only be accepted from specific people within a company.

“You can also appoint someone to regularly check your company’s details on the Companies House website – it will take only a couple of minutes and yet it could protect your business from a whole host of problems.”