Digital signatures will protect identity

Over the last two years, professionals have been plagued by a spate of
identity thefts, as criminals have sought to use their names to sign off bogus
accounts, and most recently to file fake administration orders.

Companies House has taken steps to ensure that filings it receives are
legitimate, by using its Protected Online Filing (PROOF) system, which uses
passwords to ensure that all documents filed are protected.

This system, however, is not yet 100% perfect, the most recent example being
the filing of malicious administration orders against four listed companies by
fraudsters posing as administrators.

Given the ongoing activity, is there anything accountants can do themselves
to protect their identities and the documents in the public domain that carry
their sign-off?

Stephen Partridge, business development manager at Adobe, believes there is –
using digital signatures.

Digital signatures can be obtained from a number of Trusted Third Parties
(TTPs), including VeriSign, Entrust or the Post Office. This signature can be
included in filings to Companies House, and can be used with any number of
document formats, such as pdfs, scanned documents or Microsoft Office files.

A digital signature not only protects accountants, but also the users of
public documents, who have additional assurance that when a document bears an
accountant’s name, it is the accountant who has actually signed off the

This technology is particularly valuable to credit checkers and providers,
several of whom provided credit to empty shell companies, who used fake
accountant identities.

‘Recipients of the document can verify that the content has not been altered.
They can verify that the document is coming from the actual person who sent it.
If the document gets altered in any way, the digital signature will be
invalidated,’ Partridge says.

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