Sec. of State warns of scam targeting business owners

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 7:19 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A familiar attempt to fraudulently take your money has resurfaced in Tennessee, and officials are getting the word out.

Secretary of State’s office, Tre Hargett, is warning business owners in Tennessee to be on the lookout for a scam that starts with a deceptive mailer claiming the business must pay a fee for its Certificate of Existence.

“It was not the normal address for the Secretary of State. But I went ahead and sent it anyway,” said Becky McCaskill of Ebenezer Church Cemetery Association. “It says it was processed by a certified well user. I don’t know who got it. I really don’t.”

The mailer is from the “TN Certificate of Existence Filing Company,” which provides a deadline to file for the certificate and a fee of $175.50. However, the letter and organization are not affiliated with or authorized by the Secretary of State’s Office.

“Our Division of Business and Charitable Organizations has recently received multiple complaints from business owners regarding this misleading mailer,” said Secretary Hargett. “We have seen scams like this with the same deceptive language implying that a business must have a Certificate of Existence in our state. That is not the case. Business owners don’t need to waste their hard-earned money on a document that may not be necessary or would only cost $20 through our office.”

Secretary Hargett’s office reminds business owners that a Certificate of Existence is not a required document during the formation of a business but is sometimes required during loan processes or other business transactions.

“Read through it twice, and then you have to ask yourself, what is this? It doesn’t make sense. Then you have to start digging into where it came from, how legit it is because there is so much stuff out there today. Whether it be online, if it comes on your phone, you’re hearing it from everywhere,” said Ron Sacia of Cool Stuff Weird Things. “We’re a small business. So every dollar, you’ve got to look at where it is going. When you do get something like that, you double check it, triple check it.”

The office of the Secretary of State provides a Certificate of Existence for just $20. Any established business can file for one here.

Secretary Hargett encourages business owners to call the Division of Business and Charitable Organizations at 615-741-2286 or email if they receive a questionable mailer.

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