What do “Judas Superadio Iskariot” and “Adolf Tooth Fairy Hitler” have in common?
Take a wild guess!
Well according to Companies House, they’re all directors. Yeah, right?
Whilst Britain is a global leader in company creation, there is a distinct lack of oversight by the registry to check directors' IDs.
Companies House readily admits that there are hundreds of directors who are no longer alive and some who clearly never existed.
What is not known by many is that this lack of investigation when companies are set up can lead to all kinds of money laundering and fraud with the proceeds of crime going straight overseas.
Indeed, we have acted for several clients whose identities, websites, and emails have been cloned and then abused.
So, whilst the reforms by Companies House to check director’s identities are welcome and long overdue, there is still doubt about how long the reforms will take to implement and how well they will be done with limited resources.
If you’ve tried to open a bank account recently and found it slow, long-winded, and difficult - then this kind of misuse of the company register is one reason why.
Newer banks make fewer checks, but they often do not have the capacity to easily make international payments as a consequence of a lighter touch.
In fact, one of our clients had her company name directly copied by another at companies’ house, which shouldn’t happen, even now.
It is possible to challenge new company names and ask for them to be changed, especially where similar names are used on similar types of companies.
However, the procedure can be drawn out and fraud, domain name “squatting”, passing off, trade mark infringement and similar problems can arise whilst the Companies House procedure to force a name change rumbles on.
So, what do you do?
Sadly, all too often these kinds of issues only come to a business owner’s attention when there’s been a fraud or confusion has already arisen.
By this stage, the damage has often "been done".
Typically, a client or supplier will contact the company affected and tell them that someone else is operating in their arena.
This is one of the reasons why we are increasingly advising clients to register their trade marks as soon as they can.
This enables them to seek the full force of the Courts to stop someone else from trading with their name or something similar.
Another way of policing this type of activity is to have a trade mark or domain name watching service. This frequently flags up rogue activity before damage has arisen. Being vigilant in this way will ensure you can catch things before they become a bigger more taxing problem.
We’ve done this with a number of clients by registering their trade marks comprehensively and internationally and by making sure the international domain name registries are aware of their trade mark rights.
This baseline protection stops fraud as bad actors will simply look elsewhere for an easy mark – especially if you’re an active presence in pre-enforcement.
This means takedowns can be much faster when issues arise. Very useful in an increasingly opaque online world where bad actors are constantly testing the boundaries
Following that we undertake things such as domain name analysis to see what domain names should be acquired to prevent problems and monitoring new domain names to see if there is suspicious activity.
In fact, we have a whole swathe of protective measures we can help people with, as well as the far more expensive ones that result in litigation. Ultimately the latter only really comes into play when absolutely necessary.
It is important to be aware that there are many things that can be done to resolve a legal issue before a legal claim is issued. Don’t trust any lawyer that tells you any different!
If you’re affected by this, then do come and talk to us.
We’re happy to help and we understand that the remedies aren’t always legal, sometimes they’re very practical indeed!
The measures we’ve talked about today don’t cost a lot and will save your company and your colleagues a lot of money and issues further down the line – especially as online fraud continues to be on the rise.
And after all, compare a minimal outlay to the cost of a sound night’s sleep!
My view is if you don’t ask, you’ll never get to benefit.