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Cloning scam targets restaurant businesses

We are aware of a recently emerged identity theft cloning scam targeting hospitality businesses. Individuals are setting up fake companies by cloning another company’s details so they can open bank accounts and apply for loans.

The BBC reports that over 750 hospitality businesses have been subject to a cloning scam within the last seven weeks. The fake companies register using slightly misspelled names mimicking other businesses. In some other cases, location addresses are slightly misspelled, such as “Zizzi – Caambridge”.

Known targets include Heston Blumenthal’s and Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant businesses. Fraudsters cloned their companies with extra letters in the surnames. The Ritz Hotel’s restaurant, which opened in 1906, also had its identity cloned in December 2023.

Scammers can set up a fraudulent business online with Companies House within 24 hours. Some of the ways they can affect your business is by:

  • stealing overdraft money from bank accounts set up in the name of the fake company they have cloned
  • ordering high-value goods from suppliers and leaving invoices unpaid

Scammers have to provide the identity of at least one director per registration. It is likely they are using names obtained from social media profiles or via data leaks. Therefore, some victims have had their personal identity used as pawns in falsely registered companies.

This is a wider issue if criminals are able to clear out bank accounts set up for a fake company. Banks will take the hit, which may pass its losses onto customers.

The government and Companies House are aware of the problem. Companies House has since started an investigation.

You can check Companies House to see if your restaurant has been affected by searching for both the trading and registered names.

If you think you may have been affected by this cloning scam, please email/phone your usual contact at PKF Francis Clark.
FEATURING: Nick Farrant
Nick is a corporate services partner operating primarily in the Bristol, Bath, Somerset and West Dorset area. Nick’s role is to deliver high quality accounts,… read more
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