Imagine finding out that you are a director of a company of which you have never heard. Although that may seem unlikely, the reality is that Companies House (the registrar for UK companies) works on the principle of “good faith”. The lack of rigorous identity checking by Companies House has led to a huge rise in identity fraud in recent years. In the 12 months to April 2022 Companies House received 2,432 removal applications from individuals whose details had been registered without their knowledge or permission. This represents a rise of just under 60% in three years. The level of address fraud is even higher. In the same period 10,387 people applied to have a disputed address removed from the Companies House register. In this article we will explain how you can report a company that is misusing any of your personal information, including your address, and what you can do to prevent acts of fraud in the future.
Why do fraudsters misuse personal information?
Fraudsters commonly use the personal details and addresses of unwitting victims without permission when registering a limited company or Limited Liability Partnership (LLP). This allows them to carry out illegal trading in a manner that cannot be traced to them personally. It also allows them to apply for and then misappropriate investment funds, grants, bank overdrafts and loans. Using a fake address means also that fraudsters can easily evade debt collectors who have been instructed to recover any monies owed.
All too often, however, victims of such fraud become aware of the actions of fraudsters only after serious harm has already been done. Unfortunately, research shows that company directors are almost twice as likely to become unwitting victims of identity fraud. This is because the details of company directors are freely available on the Companies House website and, hence, they are seen as easy targets. In reality, however, anyone can become a victim of identity fraud. Acts of fraud, such as identity theft, can be extremely damaging to the reputation of honest and hard-working individuals. For this reason it is important to act swiftly if you discover that your personal information has been used fraudulently.
What should I do if my details have been used without permission?
If your personal details and/or address have been used by someone without your permission then you can mitigate any potential harm by taking the appropriate action. Depending on the details to be removed from the Companies House register, you may need to complete an application form or seek legal advice, as follows:
Removing your personal details from the Companies House register
Removing a company director from the Companies House register
To remove your name as a director of a company registered with Companies House, you must first complete and submit the relevant form. The form that you need to complete depends on when the appointment as director was made (available on the Companies House website), as follows:
- Use Form RP06 (Application for removal of material about directors who have not consented to act) – for director appointments made after 6th April 2016, or
- Use Form RP02a (Application for rectification by the Registrar of Companies) – for director appointments made between 1st October 2009 and 5th April 2016
When completing Form RP06, you will be asked to provide the following:
- Your name and address
- Confirmation of whether you are acting either for yourself or else on behalf of someone else
- The company name and number
- The details to be removed
- Your signature
Companies House recommends that if your details were registered for a director appointment before 1st October 2009, or if the company is now dissolved, then you should seek legal advice.
Removing a company secretary from the Companies House register
To remove your name as the secretary of a company registered with Companies House, you will need to complete Form RP02a. If, however, the company secretary appointment was made after 1st October 2009, or the company is now dissolved, Companies House recommends that you should seek legal advice.
Removing a member of a Limited liability partnership (LLP)
To remove your name as a member of a Limited liability partnership (LLP) with Companies House, you will need to complete Form LL RP02A.
Removing a shareholder or person with significant control (PSC)
Companies House advises that if you need to remove your details as a shareholder or a person with significant control (PSC) then you must apply for a court order. For this reason it is recommended that you seek legal counsel who can advise and represent you.
Removing your address from the Companies House register
The process for removing your address from the Companies House register depends on the type of address, as follows:
Changing a registered office address on the Companies House register
To change your address if it has been used as the registered office address of a company without your permission, you will need to inform Companies House as soon as possible. If the address was registered on or after 1st October 2009 then this can be done by completing and submitting Form RP07 (Apply to change a company’s disputed office address) for a limited company or Form LL RP07 for a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).
If the address was registered with Companies House before 1st October 2009 or the company is now dissolved, you should seek legal advice.
It is important to note that Companies House cannot remove a registered office address from the register. Instead, they will alter the registered office address to a Companies House default address.
Changing director or secretary addresses on the Companies House register
If your address has been registered as the “service address” – i.e. correspondence address – of a company director or secretary without your permission on or after 1st October 2009 then you will need to complete and submit Form RP02a. If you need to change the address for a director or secretary of an LLP then you will need to complete and submit Form LL RP02A. Furthermore, if your address was registered before this date then you should seek legal advice.
Changing other addresses on the Companies House register
In some cases you may need to apply for a court order to change your address on – or remove it from – the Companies House register. This will apply if your address has been used as that of a company shareholder or person with significant control (PSC).
How can I protect my details from fraudulent use?
As discussed above, individuals whose details are on the Companies House public register are most at risk of this type of fraud. This includes company directors, LLP members and people with significant control (PSCs). Thankfully, by taking appropriate action, you can minimise the potential for the unauthorised use of your personal details and address.
If your residential address is visible on the public register as a registered office address, you can apply to change this. If appropriate, you can set up and register an external registered office address; either (and preferably) through a company formation specialist – such as Uniwide Formations – or else through an accountant or solicitor (although they tend to be rather more expensive and their company services are not always as extensive or as expertly executed). Do bear in mind, however, that while your current registered office address can be changed, your residential address will still show as a historical address.
Under the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, which is currently navigating the House of Lords, it may become possible to suppress certain historical information. This includes residential addresses, dates of birth, signatures, and business occupations. If this does happen then, according to Companies House, the suppression of such information will apply automatically.
Reporting misuse of personal details to Action Fraud
In addition to taking the steps above to remove your personal details from the public register of companies, Companies House recommend that victims of fraud report the matter also to Action Fraud (part of the police service). This can be done online or by phoning 0300 123 2040. Once you have registered with Action Fraud, your case will be sent to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), who will review the matter. Depending on the circumstances of the case and the level of information provided, they may ask a local police force to investigate or take further action themselves.
Discovering that your personal details and/or address have been used without your permission can be very distressing. It may result in harm to your own reputation, the reputation of your business and your credit rating, potentially requiring considerable time and resources to resolve. As specialists in limited company and LLP formations we can advise how best to protect your personal details and address from the outset. Doing so will ensure that, as a company director, secretary, or member, you are never exposed to the very real risk of identity fraud.
Uniwide Formations specialises in all aspects of UK limited company and LLP formation. We understand the importance of your personal privacy. By registering a company using our Privacy Package you can relax in the knowledge that your residential address will be kept private. For your confidentiality we will provide you with a prestigious registered office address and service address in Kensington, London. All official post from central government will therefore arrive here and then be scanned and forwarded to you by e-mail free of charge.