Officials Caution Businesses To Watch For ‘Annual Reporting’ Scam
HARTFORD — Attorney General William Tong, Secretary of State Denise Merrill, and Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull are cautioning businesses to avoid paying unnecessary fees to entities offering assistance with annual report business filings.
State agencies have received over 100 complaints in the past week alone regarding official-looking mailers from companies seeking additional fees to file annual reports for Connecticut businesses. These extra fees are not necessary and can be avoided by filing directly with the Secretary of the State. The filing period begins on January 1.
The Office of the Attorney General is working to determine whether the mailers originate from a same company that had previously reached a settlement with the state to resolve allegations of government imposter fraud.
“We are in the midst of an economic crisis, and businesses cannot afford to pay for services they don’t need. Be sure to look at the fine print and make sure you are dealing directly with legitimate state agencies to file only what is required,” said Tong.
“Connecticut has made it easy for small business owners to file their annual reports online,” said Merrill. “Small business owners should be on the alert for government imposter scams like these and protect themselves by only using the official websites to file their reports.”
“We know business owners have a lot on their plate this year, but it’s important to remain vigilant and beware of scammers that might be impersonating a government agency or offering assistance filing reports and documents for a fee,” said Seagull. “These sophisticated schemes might look like official government documents or agencies, but are really attempts to scam businesses out of money.”
Government imposter scams can take many forms and can target individuals and businesses alike. In one of the more common schemes, scammers mail or e-mail businesses to “advise” them that they must purchase certain products or forms, or file particular reports to be in compliance with the law. The scammers then offer to assist businesses with satisfying these requirements in exchange for a fee.
Scammers are careful to design their mailings to resemble official government documents by incorporating elements such as seals, bar codes, and references to statutes and regulations. The mailings may be marked “IMPORTANT,” “OPEN IMMEDIATELY,” or “TIME SENSITIVE” to create a false sense of urgency. Businesses could end up paying significant fees for services they do not need.
These types of scams can pose another risk. Some scammers also ask business owners to authorize the scammers to act on their behalf with government agencies. With the authorization in hand, scammers have been known to submit filings to create the appearance that they own or control the business, to open bank accounts in the business’s name but under the scammers’ control, or to borrow money purportedly on the business’s behalf.
To report a scam or instance of fraud, contact the Office of the Attorney General at 860-808-5318 or file a complaint with the office at dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint.