9 On Your Side Scam Tracker: misleading mail

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT)- Businesses that receive letters asking them to pay $150 to stay in compliance with state records laws should ignore the request, Attorney General Roy Cooper and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said Wednesday.

“Don’t let your business get tricked into paying this bogus fee,” Cooper said. “We’re taking action to protect North Carolina businesses from these misleading mailings.”

“These are sleazy operators who know the letters they are sending out are misleading and nothing more than attempts to scam business owners out of money,” Marshall said. “So if you have any questions at all about your annual report–call us!”

North Carolina business owners have reported getting letters from Division of Corporate Services asking them to complete a form and return it with a $150 fee by July 31 to a Raleigh address that is a rented mailbox.

The letters include official-looking seals, titles, and language that could deceive recipients into believing they owe money to the government. The mailings also refer to state laws that require small business owners to maintain certain records like shareholder meeting minutes and annual reports, but the Division of Corporate Services form does not meet legitimate state reporting requirements.

According to Cooper’s investigation, the bogus letters were sent by a Florida company, Annual Business Services, LLC, run by Tate J. Howe of California. Cooper’s office contacted Howe last week and instructed the company to stop sending the misleading mailings to North Carolina businesses. Investigators with the Attorney General’s Office will collect all checks sent to the rented mailbox used by the scammers and return them to the businesses that sent them.

The Secretary of State’s Office does not issue letters like the ones sent by Division of Corporate Services, Marshall said.

Business owners can check the status of their corporation, limited liability company, or other registered business entity through the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office online at  www.sosnc.com, or by phone at 919-807-2225 or toll-free at 1-888-246-7636.

If you receive a letter from an entity that demands suspicious fees and information for business compliance, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a consumer complaint online at ncdoj.gov.

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