Whitehall moves on ID theft

The government is exploring ways that it can resolve the massive identity theft problem faced by auditors, Accountancy Age has learned.

Link: Accountants’ identities stolen by fraudsters to win credit

Auditors have been targeted by fraudsters, who register bogus companies using their details to obtain credit. This week, the Department for Trade and Industry said it was ‘aware that there was a problem’ and that it was ‘exploring if there was anything that can be done to resolve it’.

Suggestions have been made that the department could include legislation in the company law reform bill, which is back on the parliamentary agenda, although no firm proposal has yet been made.

The news of government intervention in the issue came as victims of the fraud, and representative bodies, called for more to be done.

Jonathan Ford, a director with Jonathan Ford & Co, which has been targeted in the past, said measures to protect companies did not tackle accountants’ issues.

The Metropolitan Police said last week that companies and audit firms should sign up to Companies House Monitor, an online service alerting users when a company detail changes.

‘It wouldn’t address what happened in our case. What would prevent it is a system where an accountant was notified every time a document was filed in their name,’ Ford said.

Michael Rubinstein, a Manchester-based accountant who has had his professional identity used fraudulently three times, said he found the police poorly trained, and said that the National Criminal Intelligence Service had offered no advice in filling out forms to report the problem.

Peter Mitchell, chairman of the Society of Professional Accountants, said it should be more difficult to set up companies.

Paul Reynolds of Companies House said systems might be developed to combat fraud, but insisted any action should be proportionate: ‘If we are talking about a lighter regulatory touch, we have to balance that against problems we might encounter.’

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