Restaurants owned by Heston Blumenthal and Yotam Ottolenghi among those targeted in cloning scam

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurants owned by Heston Blumenthal and Yotam Ottolenghi among those targeted in cloning scam

Related tags Identity theft Fraud Companies House Yotam Ottolenghi Heston blumenthal Alexis Gauthier The Ritz

Several high-profile restaurants have been targeted as part of an emerging identity theft scam that sees fraudsters register fake business in order to apply for bank accounts and loans.

Restaurants owned by London-based chefs Heston Blumenthal, Yotam Ottolenghi and Alexis Gauthier are among those affected.

BBC ​report reveals ​more than 750 fake firms have been registered, often with misspelled names, in the last six weeks.

Companies House has begun an investigation.

Scammers can pay to register a business online with Companies House, after which they can ‘clone’ restaurants with similar names to a real business.

They are then able to steal overdraft money from bank accounts set up in the name of the fake company they have cloned, and order high-value goods from suppliers keen to fulfil lucrative orders from a new, high-profile client.

Goods are then delivered in transit and invoices left unpaid.

A company has been registered with the name ‘Dinner by Heston Blumenthall’ with an extra ‘l’; while Yotam Ottolenghi's restaurant business now also has a clone with the name ‘Ottolenghii Limited’, again with an extra letter in the surname.

Other restaurants to have had their identity cloned include The Ritz. Companies House holds documents for the business dating back to 1896, but a company called Ritz Restaurant Limited was registered on 19 December 2023.

Alexis Gauthier told the BBC ​he begun to receive letters from a bank for a business called ‘Gauthier Soho Restaurant Limited’ last month, despite the fact his business is registered as ‘APJ Gauthier Limited’

“What was really surprising is they managed to create this company at the same address as my restaurant,” he said.

“It's hard enough for us independent restaurants in central London to day in, day out, do the best we can do.

“We don't really need this on top of everything else we have to deal with.”

In a statement, Companies House said it was sorry about the difficulties businesses are experiencing.

“In the longer term we will be requiring company directors and people who file information to verify their identity to ensure they are who they say they are,” a spokesperson said.

“These changes will enable us to crack down on the use of false addresses and other misuse of the register.”

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