The PROOF scheme, also known as the Protected Online Filing scheme, is a free service established by Companies House to protect your business from potential fraud.
Protecting your business from fraud is vital to ensure that you and your employees can continue operations.
Criminals committing fraud and corporate identity theft pose a serious risk to companies, but thankfully, the PROOF scheme helps to mitigate these risks.
In this article, we’re going to find out what the Companies House PROOF scheme is, how it works and how to join up.
What is the PROOF scheme?
The PROOF scheme is a free service that has been set up by Companies House as an extra layer of protection against potential fraud or identity theft.
It’s a really simple idea that involves transitioning away from physical paper forms in place of online filing.
Once registered into the PROOF scheme, Companies House stops accepting any physical paper forms from your business. This includes documents such as appointment changes, company name changes and changes to the registered office for the business.
Instead, digital forms are used to increase security and lower the risk of fraud.
The current setup for Companies House is that it uses a good faith agreement when accepting paper forms and documents.
This can make it quite easy to fraudulently change a company’s information, as things like signatures aren’t heavily inspected or verified.
This poses a real threat for companies, as they could unwittingly have key information about their business changed by fraudsters.
How does the PROOF scheme work?
The PROOF scheme works by adding an extra level of protection against any physical unauthorised changes to your company details and records.
There are certain documents that must be filed digitally to ensure that your information is only changed by authorised individuals. Some of these forms include things such as:
- Any changes to your registered office address
- Any changes to appointed officers in your business (including personal details, appointments and resignations)
- Any changes to the company name by extraordinary resolution
You can see a full list of the forms covered here.
Ensuring that the information that Companies House has about your business is accurate is vital to keep your business legitimate. In some cases, banks and financial lenders check company details via Companies House. If the details aren’t what you say they are, then the lender is likely to withdraw any loan applications.
An unfortunate reality for Companies House is that criminals, corporate identity thieves and fraudsters use physical documents to essentially hijack a company by changing key details using physical filing.
Things like the personal details of company directors or the registered address of the office can be changed, allowing for corporate identity theft to occur.
With those key details changed, criminals can take fraud to the next level and apply for loans and other things under the company name. It’s a surprisingly common issue, with Companies House dealing with up to 100 cases of corporate identity theft every month.
How to join the PROOF scheme
Signing up your business to the PROOF scheme is really straightforward. All you have to do is use the Companies House online filing service. You’ll need to make sure that your company is registered for online filing first.
When you sign into the online filing service portal, you should follow the steps below to join the PROOF scheme:
1. Click on the ‘join PROOF’ link at the top of the page.
2. Read the terms and conditions then click on ‘agree’.
3. Select the ‘protect this company’ option.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you should receive an email to notify you that the application has been approved. After joining, there are a number of files that you can file online through PROOF, which are available here.
After signing up, it’s important to let those in your company know how to file documents online with Companies House.
They will require authentication codes to process and send in applications online, and any physical copies will be rejected after signing up to PROOF.
The benefits of using the PROOF scheme
The PROOF scheme has a few key benefits for companies to make it worthwhile to sign up.
The biggest benefit is that it adds an extra layer of protection against potential corporate identity theft by refusing to accept physical documents through Companies House.
This type of criminality is unfortunately on the rise, which is a large part of why the PROOF scheme was established by Companies House.
The other main benefit of using PROOF is that it makes it easier to file documents through Companies House. You don’t have to wait for a physical document before filling it out, as it’s all available online.
Moreover, you aren’t relying on physical mail service to send and receive documents, as it’s all done via an online portal.