Beware the LLC Scam
Do you have a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?
If so, heads up. Some of our clients have received scam letters claiming to come from the Secretary of State’s office. These letters request fees for LLC formation or annual registration.
THESE ARE SCAMS! DON’T FALL FOR THEM!
Scammers are impersonating the Secretary of State’s office in dozens of states. These letters look legitimate, so it’s important to be on your toes.
Certificate of Existence Scam
Leave it to scammers to come up with something completely bogus. In this scam, criminals are asking you to pay for a Certificate of Existence.
A scammer sent one of these letters to a client earlier this year. The client brought it to us, and now we're sharing it with you. It's a scam! Don't fall for it!
Here's what it looks like, with personal information removed.
Annual Registration Scam
Some of our clients have been receiving an Annual Registration Instruction Form from a company named "C.P.F.S.” The Form states that C.P.F.S. will assist the business entity in filing its annual registration for a payment of $150.00. The form also contains the Secretary of State's Control Number for the entity, the Business Address, and the formation date of the entity.
It may look legitimate, but it’s not. Scammers include the business details to make the recipient believe that the letter is coming from the Georgia Secretary of State or an official affiliate. This information is readily available to the public on the Georgia Secretary of State's website.
C.P.F.S. is hoping that you overlook the small print on the letter that states C.P.F.S. is "a private entity" and is not affiliated with the Georgia Secretary of State.
How do scammers get your information? It’s likely that C.P.F.S. searches the records of the Georgia Secretary of State for business information and sends out a letter requesting payment to each registrant in the hopes that the registrant will just pay it without questioning it.
By paying the $150.00, C.P.F.S. will indeed file an annual registration for your company. However, this is something you can easily do yourself—and it will cost far less. Also, the annual registration only costs $50.00 per year, so you'll save $100.00 by doing it yourself. It is not worth the extra $100.00 to have C.P.F.S. file your annual registration for your business entity.
The Georgia Certificate Service Scam
Some of our clients have received a letter from a company named "GA Certificate Service" with the name of our clients’ legal entity. Have you received one? If you did, the letter requests payment of $72.50 for the procurement of a Certificate of Existence. The letter also contains the Secretary of State's Control Number for the entity, the Business Address, and the type of entity.
Scammers include this information to make you think the letter is coming from the Georgia Secretary of State or an official affiliate. It’s easy for scammers to get this information. It’s easily searchable and available to the public on the Georgia Secretary of State's website under the Business Search section. The sender of the letter is hoping that you overlook the small print on the letter that states, "This is not a government agency."
GA Certificate Service is not affiliated with the Georgia Secretary of State. They have found a clever way of duping business owners by sending this letter with a response date and pertinent business information.
We believe that the GA Certificate Service searches the records of the Georgia Secretary of State for new business registrations, then sends out a letter requesting payment to each registrant in the hopes that the registrant will think the payment is required and pay it without questioning it.
By paying the $72.50, you get a copy of your Certificate of Existence. You should be aware that the cost of obtaining the Certificate of Existence is only $10.00, and it is not a document that you necessarily need to have unless you are asked for it. Usually, a lender or closing attorney will ask for a Certificate of Existence during a sale, purchase, or a loan for business assets or commercial real estate. It is not worth $72.50 to have GA Certificate Service order a Certificate of Existence for your business entity.
What to Do
First, if Kimbrough Law helped you create an LLC as part of your estate plan, know that we pay all fees for you, except for the Annual Registration, which you pay online. If a company promises to take care of this for you, run the other way. It's a scam.
Second, if you have received a letter from the Secretary of State’s office requesting payment of a fee and you are unsure of its authenticity, please bring a copy of the letter to our office so that we can advise you on how to proceed. The Secretary of State will never send you a paper bill.
Here's the bottom line: If Kimbrough Law created a LLC for you and get a letter requesting fees, call us. We will do everything we can to help you stay safe.