Thousands of these phony official government looking bills are being sent to registered corporations. I am receiving them in California; I can only speculate that this scam must be happening in other states as well. Some of the names they appear under are:
Annual Business Registration
The scammers send their scam letters to publically available lists of corporations and LLCs. Here is the first letter I got that angered me enough to start this site. Since then I've also received letters from the Business Filings Division (letter) and the Annual Filing Division (letter), and a reader sent us one from the Annual Business Registration (letter). The letters state information that is technically true, for instance, that a Statement of Information must be filed along with your LLC-1 document, but they demand a rediculous price to file something that is typically very inexpensive or free if you file it directly with the Secretary of State. And they don't actually guarantee that they will file it for you.
Please don't be fooled. I highly suggest you verify any official-looking mail with the responsible government organization (in this case the Secretary of State) before paying any money. The CA Secretary of State has had an alert regarding these notices (here), so if you checked with them, you would likely have found that notice.
The Secretary of State DOES send out notices similar to these, but they will always have the official Secretary of State seal on them and they don't ask for you to send in money, but instead refer you to the Secretary of State website where you can find more information. You can see an official notice like this here.
Current Scam Status
After receiving more than 5,000 complaints on this and other similar scams, on October 8th, 2009, the Calfornia Attorney General's office filed civil cases against 8 individuals and 6 companies, including Kristina Keshishyan, who we exposed here. (article and the AG's news release)
These scams are still being mailed out. The latest one I received on 10/18/09 from the "Annual Filing Division" (full letter can be found here) has "THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT" on the envelope. This is clearly an attempt by the scammers to indemnify themselves against future prosecution. Probably some people will still be fooled.
The names the scammers operate under continues to multiply. The latest is Corporate Business Filings.
We received this from a reader:
It looks like these guys are still at it.
What You Can Do - #1 Complain
First and foremost, complain to the proper authorities. It is a direct result of people complaining that some of the scammers are being taken to court. I would complain to the Attorney Generals office (for California, general site here, file complaint here) as well as your states Department of Consumer Affairs. You can also file a complaint with the US Postal Services's Mail Fraud Division here.
Other people have filed reports with the Better Business Bureau and Yelp. The point of the last two is to make the information about the scammers publically available so that when someone searches Google for "Business Filing Division" they find information that tells them it is a scam. And of course, if you are like me, you can register a relevant domain name and put as much information as you can find out there to help people avoid getting scammed.
What You Can Do - #2 Dig up the Dirt
With my own digging and with the help of others, we managed to uncover quite a bit of information about the Annual Review Board scammers, which can be found here.
What You Can Do - #3 Mess with them
If you have some extra time on your hands, why not try to wasted their time.
As one person did, send in the form without a check and make them call you to ask for a check. Waste their time on the phone.
If you live near their office, go visit them in person and naively ask them to explain their service.
Ship them a UPS box with your dogs fresh droppings. That is sure to make their day.
I am sure there are many more such creative ideas out there.
Taking Action Can Make A Difference!
Receving complaints from people like you and I has clearly promped the CA Attorney General to pursue these scammers.
With this site having gotten 3,400 hits over the last 8 months, I like to think that some of our visitors toook our advice and filed a complaint with the AG and we actually helped bag those crooks! Our web logs also show visits by ftb.ca.gov (Franchise Tax Board), dca.ca.gov (Department of Consumer Affairs) and usps.gov (Postal Service) so perhaps we even assisted them in their investigation.
There has been a flurry of news related to another recent scam, those annoying extended car warranty telemarketing calls. (Note to scammers, consider taking the Chairman of the FTC off of our auto-dial list.) They call you despite being on the do not call list. They sell you a crappy warranty and lie about what it will and won't cover. Recent headlines:
Update on Kristina Keshishyan
Kristina appears to be one of the main players in the Annual Review Board scam, so we are interested on what she is up to.
We've received a tip that Kristina has moved on to run another venture called GotPrint.com. The Better Business Bureau listing for GotPrint.com confirms that Kristina is involved in this business and lists her as HR director.
But the business has a horrible reputation as evidenced by all these complaints.
If you have any more information about these scams, please contact me at: