Jacksonville, FL- Better Business Bureau Serving Northeast Florida & The Southeast Atlantic wholeheartedly agrees with a recent national study that named Jacksonville as the best place in the country to start a business. However, there are scams that target these small start-ups. With the May 1st deadline approaching for businesses to file their annual report with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations, the BBB has seen an uptick in complaints and inquiries concerning misleading compliance solicitations.
These deceptive solicitations look official and appear to be coming from the state. The common theme is that they direct the recipient to send a fee, usually much higher than the state would charge, often for services that are not needed. BBB Serving Northeast Florida & The Southeast Atlantic has two businesses in our files that are sending out these solicitations that we want to make consumers aware of.
The first is Corporate Records Services, located at a P.O Box in Tallahassee. Our file contains information from consumers who are due to file an annual report for their corporation or LLC’s in the state of Florida. These consumers have notified BBB that they were sent an advertisement suggesting that they were required to complete an "Annual Minutes Form" and pay a fee of $125.00 to Corporate Records Services, consumers and the BBB feel the advertising is misleading in nature. According to Florida Department of State Division of Corporations “consumers should not confuse “Annual Minutes” or “Annual Corporate Record Forms” notices with the Florida Department of State’s required Annual Report filings. These notices, which solicit a fee of $125, are NOT from the Department of State or any other state or federal agency. Please disregard these notices. Neither form is required by this office or any other state or government agency.”
The second is Florida Corporate Filing Services, LLC, also located at a P.O. Box in Tallahassee, FL. Our file contains information from consumers who recently formed corporations or LLCs in the state of Florida. These consumers have notified BBB that they were sent an advertisement suggesting that their corporation certification would not be completed until Florida Corporate Filing Services received payment of $47.99. Consumers and the BBB feel the advertising is misleading in nature. According to Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations "Once an entity is properly formed, incorporated, organized, or registered on the records of this office, it is not required to purchase or receive a certificate of status to be considered a valid business entity or registration. Please disregard any notices or solicitations you may receive to the contrary. These notices are NOT from the Dept. of State, Division of Corporations, or any other state or federal agency."
A key indicator when reviewing these solicitations is to review the fine print, which will usually say something like “This product has not been approved or endorsed by any government agency and this offer is not being made by an agency of the government” There are subtle variations of this language that seem official.
Note that some of these solicitations do not include headings that appear to come from the state, but they include details about the entity, officers and directors and warnings about penalties and fines that could lead the recipient to believe they are official.
If you are ever unsure about the legitimacy of a notice you receive, BBB suggests checking with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations and BBB before responding to the notice. If you need additional information on corporation filings, please visit: sunbiz.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses and brands they can trust. In 2013, consumers turned to BBB 131 million times for Business Reviews on more than 6.5 million businesses, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Mexico and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.