How much mail do you receive each month? Chances are, quite a bit, whether you’re a start-up company or you’ve been in business for years. Items plastered with advertisements or addressed “to whom it may concern” probably wind up in the trash, but I’d bet you’re not as likely to toss out professional looking letters with fancy corporate seals.
These features indicate credibility, and most letters marked with them are. But, as a current scam illustrates, this is not always the case.
A company called “Corporate Records Service” has recently sent a slew of letters to Wisconsin business owners asking them to fill out an “Annual Minutes Form” and submit it, along with a $125 fee, to a designated mailbox in Madison.
As stated in the Journal Sentinel, both letter and form appear professional and ask for very specific information, making the company’s request seem legitimate. If it weren’t for the confidential nature of some information requested (business corporation number, for example) the scam would likely have gone undetected. But because this information is available through the Department of Financial Institutions, the fraudulent company’s requests for it has made some owners wary and prompted them to contact the DFI.
Another red flag is that the letter does not specify exactly what businesses will receive in exchange for their $125 payment. Corporate Records Service claims they will assist these businesses in documenting minutes at meetings, but give no further details.
If a company requests confidential information from you or asks you to pay a fee without really telling you what you’ll receive in exchange, be wary. These are two indicators of a scam. They are not, however, immediately clear. Identifying these red flags requires careful reading and continual questioning—a little effort yes, but essential to avoiding potentially detrimental losses.
If we don’t begin to look beyond the surface and actually evaluate the letters we receive, we’ll be easy prey for scams such as this one.