Credit agencies concerned over info blackouts

Concerns are growing that legislation enabling company directors to withhold
their addresses will make it more difficult to spot fraudulent accounts filings
at Companies House.

Fears of an information blackout have grown after one of the UK’s leading
credit agencies revealed to Accountancy Age that it had details of 21 alleged
fraudulent company filings, all using made-up auditor details to gain credit.

Auditors have raised concerns recently about scams which use their names to
give credence to accounts, which can then be used to get credit.

Martin Williams, managing director of rating agency Graydon, produced
information that showed businesses incorporated from north London and East
Anglia, all using nearly identical sets of accounts and company details,
including the use of an accountant whose name and address do not exist.

Williams warned that the Companies Act, which from 2008 will allow directors
to withhold their addresses from public filings, will add to the problems.

Credit rating agencies will be able to request directors’ details, but it
will be more difficult to cross-reference data to check the validity of filings,
he argued. ‘By taking away private address details from the public, credit
agencies will have one less avenue of investigation,’ said Williams.

‘Fraudsters have been known to file real addresses, but in other cases, they
file fictitious addresses. This is also fine – as soon as we discover that a
private address doesn’t exist, suspicion is heightened still further, and
further investigation even more intense.’

A DTI spokeswoman said the legislation had been fully discussed and debated,
and would all be kept under review.

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