Due to the nature of Companies House being a free public domain it poses a risk of personal information being accessed relatively easily and used without permission. For example, even some credit card applications only require a full name, date of birth, and residential address, all of which may be readily available on Companies House. This leaves individuals, such as directors, more susceptible to identity theft. As cyber crime becomes more prevalent, business owners and directors will become an easier target.
Whilst the law has now changed to help protect some of these details, historical information is still available. There are ways to apply to remove historical home addresses from the public record but historical forms with full dates of birth are still unable to removed.
Staying vigilant – a recent case
We recently acted for an individual who had an unsolicited delivery of clothes from a well-known clothes store. He thought this was strange because not only had he not made an order, the parcel contained only ladies clothes. He almost thought nothing of it, but eventually decided to contact the clothes store to query it. After a series of very long and frustrating telephone calls, it transpired that a credit account had been set up in his name for £2,000 of credit and a series of transactions had been undertaken in his name.
To achieve this, all that had been required was his name, date of birth and home address. This individual has several appointments at Companies House and if you know where to look, his full date of birth and home address was available on documents which are easily available to download, free of charge. We helped him to remove historical personal address details from public record in order to mitigate the risk of this happening again in the future.
How to remove residential address details from Companies House
Whilst Companies House does require residential addresses for directors when they are appointed, this information is not shared publicly. The only time this information is shared by Companies House is to credit reference agencies and specified public authorities, such as the police. However, historically a director’s residential address was publicly available on Companies House and therefore, any historical documents may still contain a director’s residential address. A director having a service address was introduced under the Companies Act 2006 so before this point it was common to have a director’s residential address published on Companies House.
Even with the Act in place it may be that on occasion a personal home address has been used at Companies House as a service address for correspondence. The risk here is that this does make the residential address in question available publicly.
Fortunately, as an individual, a director can remove their home address from public record at Companies House. Applications can also be made where addresses are available as a member of an LLP, a shareholder of a company, or as a PSC.
There is a limitation to this application process as you cannot remove a company’s registered office address, even if this is a residential address. This should all be considered on incorporation of a company as although a director’s residential address is kept privately by Companies House, this service is not available if a home address is used as the registered office address.
Can I remove a date of birth from Companies House?
To appoint a director there is a requirement to provide their date of birth. Previously this would have been publicly available on Companies House, however, for directors appointed after 10 October 2015 only the month and year of birth is publicly available. Unfortunately, those appointed before 10 October 2015 do not currently have the ability to remove their full date of birth from the older forms filed at Companies House and therefore this remains a risk area for fraud.
Companies House have stated that they are aware of concerns of the publication of personal data and suggested there may need to be a reform allowing directors to suppress the ‘day’ element of their date of birth. However, there is no current reform in place to update this.
How Moore Barlow can help
If you require expert legal services on the topic of publicly available personal details, or any other corporate issue, please contact our team today.