Watch Out for These Business Registration Scams

by: Smith and Howard

December 18, 2020

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As we begin a new year and business licenses or certifications are up for renewal, there are several scams that business owners should be aware of. The scams are designed to intimidate businesses into paying unnecessary fees by using words like “Time Sensitive”, “Important” or “Open Immediately” to convey a sense of urgency. These scams may suggest that business owners’ registrations or certifications are invalid or have lapsed and are at risk of being taken away.

One company, calling itself “CFS” (“Compliance Filing Services”, “Corporate Filing Services” or “Certificate Filing Services” are some of the names used), has sent annual registration notices to taxpayers in Georgia. These fake notices warn of penalties and fines for missing a renewal deadline, even though renewal is not due until April 1. The company offers to handle the renewal of a business’s registration for $150 when the actual fee is only $50.

In 2020, Georgia’s Secretary of State’s Office warned businesses about mail being sent by a fake company named “Workplace Compliance Services”. These letters offered to renew a business’s registration for almost three times the registration fee. Like online phishing schemes, the scammers made it look like the letter was from a legitimate government organization.

“Business Compliance Division” is another company that the governor of Georgia has warned businesses about. It sends postcards or letters to businesses, warning them that they have a potential compliance violation and offering to resolve the (nonexistent) problem by getting them a Certificate of Existence for upwards of $125. A valid certificate can be obtained through the Secretary of State’s Corporations Division for just $10.

If you have received similar letters or notices and would like to verify their validity, please call your tax advisor.

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