Companies House investigates company cloning scam

Companies House is investigating after a restaurant cloning scam was uncovered by a BBC investigation.

The corporation claims fraudsters have cloned the identities of famous names such as Yotam Ottolenghi and Heston Blumenthal in order to open bank accounts and apply for loans.

Restaurants fallen victim to the cloning scam too, often using a slight variation of the spelling.

The new company is registered at Companies House which is quickly followed by the scammers opening bank accounts with authorised overdrafts. High-value goods are then ordered in the fake company’s name and invoices are left unpaid.

The BBC claims more than 750 fake firms have been registered in the past six weeks alone.

A fraud expert quoted in the BBC article criticised Companies House for having more robust verification checks before allowing a company to be set up. He said the practice renders Companies House as ‘not fit for purpose’.

Both Heston Blumenthal and Yotam Ottolenghi’s businesses were targeted simply by adding an extra letter to their surname.

Mr Ottolenghi’s company told the BBC: “Anyone who infringes our intellectual property or attempts to cause confusion with our brand or profit from our reputation, will have robust action taken against them.”

Companies House has apologised for the difficulties real companies are discovering. A spokesperson said: say: “In the longer term we will be requiring company directors and people who file information to verify their identity to ensure they are who they say they are.”

“These changes will enable us to crack down on the use of false addresses and other misuse of the register.”

It is a timely reminder to look closely at anyone who contacts you out of the blue for an order, particularly if you’ve had no prior contact.

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