Dispute resolution lawyers at law firm Shoosmiths have witnessed a recent surge in the number of company ID thefts particularly fuelled by the internet and fear that many firms may be unaware of the crime.

The warning comes hard on the heels of a recent case handled by Shoosmiths involving a failed attempt to steal the ID of a supplier to major aerospace and defence contractors.
Lawyers liaised with the Metropolitan Police after fraudsters created a bogus website and changed the legitimate company’s name and details at Companies House. The address was changed to that of student accommodation in London and was only detected when a potential supplier became suspicious of an order and contacted the real company. The real company’s details had been changed seven weeks earlier without its knowledge.

Partner Gary Assim, of Shoosmiths’ Milton Keynes office, said: “This issue of corporate identity fraud is a fast-growing trend in the UK and businesses really need to take urgent precautions to prevent them from becoming the next victim. What we generally find is that fraudsters first steal the company’s identity and then trade under their legitimate credit and name.
“The internet is used to file documents with Companies House and make changes to details of directors, company secretaries and registered office addresses without the knowledge of the real company concerned. Having changed those points of contact, the fraudsters are then ordering high value items on credit and requesting delivery at an alternative address to avoid detection.”

Mr Assim added that part of the problem is that businesses are failing to dispose of important documents safely making them easy targets for the fraudsters. This also means they are likely to be in breach of data protection rules by discarding intact and personal information on clients, customers, staff and directors.

Latest figures supplied by credit reference agencies and local authorities across the UK reveal how lax many businesses are with 45% of companies discarding their headed paper; 24% throwing away directors’ signatures; 44% disposing of whole invoices and 20% put their bank account details into their normal wastepaper.

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