Fake Irish firms: How to protect directors from ID theft

Andrew Lambe from the Company Bureau outlines ways that company directors can protect themselves from identity theft.

An ongoing investigation by the Irish Independent has recently revealed that international fraudsters are stealing the identities of company directors in Ireland to set up fake firms.

The registration of these rogue companies has been filed directly with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) and are assigned an incorporation number, so they appear to be legitimate.

“It is strongly advised that company directors take steps to ensure accurate information is maintained for all entities that they are involved in”

These companies were registered with the fraudulent use of existing company directors’ names and addresses of existing businesses which already exist on the register

The investigation found numerous incidents of fraud including:

  • More than 100 companies were registered under the same residential address in South Dublin
  • A legitimate Irish director who had previously been targeted was again exploited when she was named as a director of several fake firms

Representatives from the Companies Registration Office are due to appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Employment before Christmas to address the issues.

What company information is available to the public?

The CRO maintain the central database of statutory information on Irish companies and business names.

Various company information is available to the public including the company name, incorporation number, registered office address, director(s) full name, director(s) date of birth, and director(s) residential address.

How can directors protect their identities?

The leading company formation experts at Company Bureau recommend that directors and presenters take the following necessary steps to protect their identities:

  • Companies should be set up in CORE as watched companies, this can also be done via a search provider.
  • Regularly monitor the use of registered office and business addresses, particularly when operating out of a shared building. Mail can be checked, and the address can be searched against the CRO database.
  • Use a company search facility to monitor director names that match (or are very similar) to your name.  

Upcoming requirement for directors to disclose their PPS number

Under the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill, company directors will be required to provide their PPS number or (equivalent identification if they do not have a PPS number) when incorporating a new company, filing annual returns, or making a change of company directors.

This provision aims to safeguard company directors by cross-checking this information against the Department of Social Protection database and increase the accuracy of the information held by the CRO.

The legislation does not provide for details to be publicly listed, so director PPS numbers will remain off the public record.

The Bill will also bring the implementation of a new Corporate Enforcement Authority to investigate suspected breaches in company law. 

Register of Beneficial Ownership (RBO)

The Central Register of Beneficial Ownership (RBO) online portal was established in 2019. Detailed information submitted on individuals holding 25pc or more in a private company, trust, or other applicable entity within the first five months of incorporation.

For identity verification, the PPS number of all beneficial owner(s) is required to make this filing. It is strongly advised that company directors take steps to ensure accurate information is maintained for all entities that they are involved in.

Directors of Irish companies should take an active role in ensuring their identities are not being incorrectly used. If you discover your identity is being incorrectly used, it should be reported immediately as fraud to An Garda Siochana.

If you require assistance with any of the items covered in this article, please seek advice from a Trust or Company Service Provider (TCSP) such as Company Bureau.

Andrew Lambe
Andrew has been a key part of Company Bureau since 2002. A Graduate and member of the Marketing Institute of Ireland, Andrew is highly regarded in the company secretarial and compliance area by Ireland’s accounting and legal professionals. In his limited spare time, Andrew enjoys cycling, running, supporting the Irish soccer team, and being a dad to his two children.