The people in Maine’s division of corporations, a department within the Secretary of State’s office, have been a busy in recent weeks.
Responding to calls of concern, they sent a number of emails to corporations regarding a scam that’s been making the rounds nationwide. The goal, as in most scams, is to get unsuspecting recipients to send money in exchange for, well, nothing.
An outfit calling itself Corporate Records Service (CRS) sent letters to a number of Maine businesses, and those letters were more than a little official-looking. Printed on legal-size paper, the letters told business owners that CRS would “prepare and provide corporate minutes” that allegedly meet requirements of state law.
“As soon as we learned of it, we knew it wasn’t legitimate,” said Barbara Redmond, Maine’s chief deputy secretary of state. As the division of corporations pointed out in a recent news release, “Maine corporations are not required to file corporate minutes with the Secretary of State’s office.”
While corporations do have to file annual reports by June 1, they do not have to file meeting minutes. And they certainly don’t have to pay an unknown party $125 to do so.
The division’s news release and mass emailing to corporations cautioned, “We want to alert all entities [for-profit businesses and nonprofits] of this deceptive solicitation to prevent entities from feeling compelled to complete the form and send payment to a mailing center post office box address by the deadline on the form.”
Northeast CONTACT was alerted to the scam by a Bangor-area business that had complied with the solicitation. On learning it was a scam, the owner canceled his credit card as a precaution (meanwhile, the mailbox service had flagged the unauthorized mail recipient — CRS — and returned the mailing to the owner).
Business owners might be duped by such a scam for several reasons. Forms that appear to be matters of official business carry more weight than “junk mail.” Small businesses by definition have a limited number of employees; they may be doing several jobs and may not be trained to spot scam attempts.
Finally, the sheer volume of mail that many businesses receive makes attention to such details problematic. Businesses are targets of a number of schemes, notably offers to sell office supplies at better-than-believable prices. One offer — to print all government-required employee notices on one laminated sheet — is often outdated nearly as soon as it’s received (get them free at www.maine.gov/labor/posters/index.html).
Cara McCormick of Belfast owns two corporations in Maine. Recalling the fines for missing a previous annual report filing deadline, she had filled out two of the bogus forms, enclosed checks and was ready to mail them. She checked her email and found the warning from the division of corporations. “They deserve to be commended for their timely response,” McCormick said.
All entities on record with the Secretary of State may want to check filing requirements at http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/corp/helpful.html and call the division of corporations at (207) 624-7752 with questions.
Inspector Michael Desrosiers of the Postal Inspection Service in Portland says the service has not investigated this particular mailing. He advises average citizens and business people alike to be sure they know who they’re sending money to, and that if it’s a scam, “you will never get that money back.” For more, visit the Inspection Service website, www.deliveringtrust.com.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.