When it comes to government paperwork, everybody's afraid of getting it wrong. After all, there's a lot at stake. Being late or submitting incorrect information can land you in serious trouble, and the rules are not exactly easy to decipher.
That anxiety can make organizations easy targets for scam compliance notices. We get frequent calls from clients confused by unusual documents they received in the mail. These fraudulent mailings have been designed to look like official government correspondence. They often include lengthy excerpts from state statutes to add credibility, but they are not state documents.
Because their creators go to great lengths to make these mailings look official, it can be challenging for a non-specialist to tell the difference between fake notices and the real thing. Fortunately, our clients usually call us when they get these scam mailings. We encourage you to do the same. But when in doubt, take a closer look for these telltale signs of a hoax.
We see fake notices regarding registered agent service, trademark renewals, publication requirements, certificates of existence or status, and general business compliance. The scam mailings we see most frequently have to do with annual reports. These documents may reference annual reports directly or use similar terms like annual records statement, annual meeting disclosure, annual minutes, or officers list. These scam documents reference filings that are not due to the state and are sent by someone other than a state agency. These fraud mailings attempt to pass off hidden contractual agreements and fees as state requirements.
Often, the notices contain corporate ID numbers and information about your company scraped from state records. They may claim that your filings are overdue and threaten you with late fees, dissolution, and other consequences if you don't follow the directions. The idea, of course, is to prompt quick action. Instead, take time to examine the letter more closely.
Official state notices and websites bear a state seal or other recognizable branding. Often fake mailings try to mimic those official symbols, but a careful comparison will show that they are not the same.
Did the mailings outer envelope have a return address from the state? Often, fake notices are sent with no return address at all. You should be suspicious. Why would the state send documents in an unmarked envelope?
Next, look at the enclosed return envelope. Is the envelope addressed to the secretary of state or another government office? Or is it addressed to a corporation with a PO Box? A return envelope intended to go back to the state would bear the address of a recognizable state official or agency.
If you get a notice about your registered agent that didn't come from your agent, it is likely fraudulent. Anytime you need clarification about documents concerning your registered agent, you should give them a call. You should be able to get prompt answers to your questions and clear directions on how to respond. Our registered agent clients always have easy access to their compliance teams.
Often service companies will include a disclaimer stating that they are not a government agency, are not affiliated with one, or do not have a contract with one to provide the relevant service. Often these notices will appear in all capital letters. These capital letters are an attempt to show that the company is providing fair notice of its intentions. Don't be fooled. This is a telltale sign of a scam.
Here's an example from a mailing we received from a concerned client.
In this case, the scammers are trying to make the target unwittingly sign up for services that are neither wanted nor required, all in exchange for hefty fees.
Here's another example from Florida:
People sending these mailings usually send them out in droves, so if you received one, chances are many others are puzzling over the very same document right now. A quick web search may reveal the scam for what it is. You can also check your secretary of state's website to see if there are any warnings regarding similar notices. Most state websites provide numerous examples of fraudulent compliance mailings to alert you. You can also send your document to the state for investigation.
Our compliance specialists have seen it all when it comes to state filings, real and fake. They can steer you in the right direction whenever you have questions, doubts, or anxieties about getting it wrong. Please contact us. We look forward to working with you!