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Scams

SEPTEMBER 26, 2022 – PATENT & TRADEMARK BUREAU

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of a reminder form that is targeting businesses with trademarked logos claiming to be from the "Patent and Trademark Bureau," a fake company. The form states that in order to renew a trademark, the company must pay $1950 for an initial renewal and $850 for any additional trademark classes. The form contains publicly available information about the company, such as name, address, the trademarked image, and various pertinent dates relating to the trademark, and the company is informed that it will lose the trademark if it fails to renew. The form states, in small text, that the Patent and Trademark Bureau is a private entity that will file the renewal on behalf of the business.

This is a partial scam. There is no company registered to do business in Pennsylvania by the name of "Patent and Trademark Bureau." The address used by the fake company is that of a postal store located in Huntingdon Valley. The telephone number associated with this scam is 215-207-0140. The scammers appear to be using publicly available data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office to target trademark holders. It is true that a failure to renew a trademark results in the loss of that trademark. However, both in Pennsylvania and on the federal level, trademark renewals can be filed by the business itself and for a much lower fee.

The mailing contains some incorrect and overbroad information. While federal trademarks do operate on a ten-year cycle, Pennsylvania state trademarks renew every five years. The cost of such renewals made directly with the Department of State is $50 and with the USPTO $525 per class of trademark.

The Department is alerting all business entities of this solicitation to prevent businesses from paying more than is needed for a trademark renewal by using a bogus intermediary like the Patent and Trademark Bureau.  This may also add time to a request. While renewal is required to maintain a trademark, renewal may be accomplished by filing directly with the Department of State or the USPTO.


MARCH 22, 2022 – CERTIFICATE OF STATUS

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of another scam relating to newly formed businesses.  Unknown persons are calling companies, stating that they are from the "Secretary of State's office" and informing the business that it must complete certain paperwork to obtain a "Certificate of Status." The caller has basic information about the business (name, address, phone number) that is available from public sources. The caller then emails or texts a link to a Google form, wherein more information about the company is sought:


Ultimately, the company is charged $89.95 or $109.95. It is unclear what documents, if any, the company receives. The telephone number associated with this con is 717-778-3182.

 This is a SCAM. These solicitations are not being made by the Pennsylvania Department of State/Secretary of State's office and are not being made by or on behalf of any governmental entity. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of State does not issue any document called a "Certificate of Status."

 Instead, Pennsylvania law permits "Subsistence Certificates" to be issued to domestic filing associations and "Certificates of Registration" for registered foreign associations. The cost of such certificates obtained directly from the Department of State is $40 and they are generally available by email within two hours of ordering online.  These certificates are not mandatory. They are generally requested in conjunction with loans or mergers or for other business purposes. 


MAY 12, 2020 – PA CERTIFICATE SERVICES

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of 2020 Certificate of Good Standing Request Forms that are targeting recently registered Pennsylvania businesses from a bogus company calling itself “PA Certificate Services.” The form states that the business has “one step left” to attain a “Certificate of Good Standing” through “PA Certificate Services,” by paying $87.25 to the company to procure the certificate. Companies are informed that they may need the certificate for loans, renewing business licenses, or for tax or other business purposes.
 
This is a partial SCAM. There is no company registered to do business in Pennsylvania by the name of “PA Certificate Services.” The address used by this company is that of a UPS store located in Harrisburg and the phone number on the mailing (1-855-211-9705) goes to a call center located outside of Pennsylvania.
 
The mailing contains some incorrect and overbroad information. The Pennsylvania Department of State does not issue “Certificates of Good Standing.” Instead, Pennsylvania law permits “Subsistence Certificates” to be issued to domestic filing associations and “Certificates of Registration” for a registered foreign association. The cost of such certificates obtained directly from the Department of State is $40 and they are generally available by email within two hours of ordering online.  

The Department is alerting all business entities of this solicitation to prevent businesses from paying more than is needed for a Subsistence Certificate or a Certificate of Registration by using a bogus intermediary like PA Certificate Services.  This may also add time to a request. While a proof of registration with the Department of State (such as certified copies of filed documents or a Subsistence Certificate) may be required for legitimate business purposes such as loans or renewing business licenses, typically the lender or regulator requires that the copies or certificates are obtained close in time to when they are needed.  


JULY 26, 2018 – FEDERAL LABOR LAW POSTER

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of Labor Law Compliance Notices (PDF) sent to recently-formed Pennsylvania businesses. The letter states that the businesses are required to post Federal labor law posters in the workplace or will face significant fines and penalties. Businesses are told they may pay a company called “Labor Poster Services” to receive a compliant poster.
 
This is a partial SCAM. Pennsylvania businesses should be aware that the Commonwealth’s enforcement agency for wage law is the Department of Labor and Industry’s Bureau of Labor Law Compliance. Pennsylvania employers are required to post certain notices in their worksites pursuant to Pennsylvania law and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry provides links to download these poster for free. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry also provides a link to Federal Required Employee Notices.
 
The Department is alerting all Pennsylvania business entities of this deceptive solicitation to prevent Pennsylvania businesses from paying for posters that can be obtained for free. It is also not required that businesses obtain the mandatory posters through an intermediary like Labor Poster Services.


MAY 23, 2018 – PENNSYLVANIA BUSINESS NAME PUBLISHING FORM

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of Business Name Publishing solicitations (PDF) that are being mailed to recently-formed Pennsylvania businesses or to recently-registered ficticious names from a bogus company calling itself "Pennsylvania Business Name Publishing." The letter urges the business to remit $200 in order for the bogus company to publish advertisements of the business name in approved newspapers and avoid a $500 penalty imposed when "the entity seeks to enforce [a] contract and subsequently published a fictitious name in an untimely manner."

This is a partial SCAM. There is no company registered to do business in Pennsylvania by the name of "Pennsylvania Business Name Publishing." The address used by this fake company is that of a UPS Store located in Harrisburg. The scammers appear to have purchased company formation data from the Department of State and are targeting newly-formed businesses and recently-registered fictitious names. The mailing contains some incorrect and overbroad information. Pennsylvania corporations are required to advertise their intention to file or the filing of articles of incorporation. Proofs of publication of such advertising should be filed with the minutes of the corporation. Fictitious names involving individual parties as registrants are similarly required to be advertised. Proofs of publication of such advertising should be kept with the permanent records of the business.

Pennsylvania law does prohibit entities that are doing business under a fictitious name but have failed to register that name from bringing a lawsuit in the Commonwealth until the name is registered and a $500 civil penalty is paid to the Department of State. 54 Pa.C.S. § 331. Additionally, the effect of failure to advertise when required by law will be that "no legal proceeding, matter, or case in which notice is required to be given by official or legal advertising, shall be binding and effective upon any interested person unless such official and legal advertising is printed and published" in the manner required by law. 45 Pa.C.S. § 307.

The Department maintains a Geographical Listing of Legal Publications to assist businesses in advertising. It also recommends that businesses employ the services of a reputable organization or law firm to assist with advertising. The Department is alerting all Pennsylvania business entities of this deceptive solicitation to prevent Pennsylvania business from paying for a "service" that may not be necessary and may be rendered by an unregistered company.

 

March 14, 2016 - BUSINESS COMPLIANCE DIVISION/NOTICE OF POTENTIAL COMPLIANCE VIOLATION SCAM

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of more post card solicitations (PDF) that are being mailed to Pennsylvania businesses from a bogus company calling itself "Business Compliance Division." The post card urges the company to "call immediately" to "avoid potential fees and penalties." The number (1-888-803-7922) leads the caller to speak to a representative of the alleged company, who seeks a credit card payment of $125 over the phone to procure a "certificate of existence" in order to comply with "Commonwealth regulations governing new enterprises."

This is a SCAM. Companies which are validly formed have already received a stamped copy of the public organic document filed with the Department of State, indicating the entity number, date filed and name of the current Secretary of the Commonwealth. There is no "certificate of existence" required for a newly-filed company in order to maintain compliance with Pennsylvania law."
 

AUGUST 20, 2015 - DIVISION of CORPORATE SERVICES - ANNUAL RECORDS STATEMENT SCAM

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of Annual Records Statement solicitations (PDF) that are being mailed to recently-formed Pennsylvania businesses from a bogus company calling itself “Division of Corporate Services – Compliance Division.”  The letter urges the business to complete a form with officer and director information and return with a fee of $150, payable to Division of Corporate Services, by a certain date in order to “fulfill your corporation’s records requirements per Pennsylvania Statute.”

This is a SCAM. There is not company registered to do business in Pennsylvania by the name of “Division of Corporate Services.”  The address used by this fake company is that of a UPS Store located in Harrisburg. The scammers appear to have purchased company formation data from the Department of State and are targeting newly-formed businesses, many of which are not corporations. The mailing contains misspellings and incorrect information.

Pennsylvania business corporations are required to keep records relating to accounts, minutes and shares. However, it is not required that these records be filed with the Department of State or with a private company. The Department is alerting all Pennsylvania business entities of this deceptive solicitation to prevent Pennsylvania businesses from paying for a “service” that is a scam.  


JULY 28, 2015 - BUSINESS COMPLIANCE DIVISION/NOTICE OF POTENTIAL COMPLIANCE VIOLATION SCAM 

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of post card solicitations (PDF) that are being mailed to Pennsylvania businesses from a bogus company calling itself “Business Compliance Division.” The post card urges the company to “call immediately” to “avoid potential fees and penalties.” The number (1-855-530-2615) leads the caller to speak to a representative of the alleged company, who seeks a credit card payment of $100 over the phone to procure a “certificate of existence” in order to comply with “Commonwealth regulations governing new enterprises.”
 
This is a SCAM. Companies which are validly formed have already received a stamped copy of the public organic document filed with the Department of State, indicating the entity number, date filed and name of the current Secretary of the Commonwealth. There is no “certificate of existence” required for a newly-filed company in order to maintain compliance with Pennsylvania law. 

JUNE 16, 2015 - PENNSYLVANIA COUNCIL FOR CORPORATIONS 

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of solicitations that are being mailed to Pennsylvania businesses from a company calling itself “Pennsylvania Council for Corporations.” This mailing (PDF) urges corporations to file information and send payment in the amount of $125.00 by a certain date in order to maintain proper records. This is not a legitimate company. The Department is alerting all Pennsylvania business entities of this deceptive solicitation to prevent Pennsylvania businesses from completing the form and sending payment to a mailing center post office box address by the deadline on the form. 

 

APRIL 18, 2013 - CORPORATE COMPLIANCE COMPANY AND CORPORATE RECORDS SERVICE SCAM

The Pennsylvania Department of State has been made aware of solicitations that are being mailed to Pennsylvania businesses from two companies:  Pennsylvania Corporate Compliance Company and Corporate Records Service. These solicitations are titled "Annual Meeting Disclosure Statement" (PDF), "2013 - Annual Minutes Form," "2013 - Annual Corporate Records Form " and "2013 - Annual Records Solicitation Form." These mailings urge corporations and limited liability companies to file information and send payment in the amount of $125.00 by a certain date in order to maintain proper records.
 
These solicitations include a citation to the Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law or Pennsylvania statute regarding corporate records. At first glance, these solicitations may look official; however, none of the information being requested is required to be filed with the Department of State or the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania corporations and limited liability companies are not required to file corporate minutes with the Department of State or with a private company such as Pennsylvania Corporate Compliance Company or Corporate Records Service. The Department is alerting all Pennsylvania business entities of this deceptive solicitation to prevent Pennsylvania businesses from completing the form and sending payment to a mailing center post office box address by the deadline on the form.
 
Despite the suggestive language on the mailing, the "Annual Meeting Disclosure Statement," the "2013 - Annual Minutes Form", the "2013 - Annual Corporate Records Form" and the "2013 - Annual Records Solicitation Form" are not required to be completed. These formal-looking letters did not originate from any governmental office, nor are the Pennsylvania Corporate Compliance Company and Corporate Records Service affiliated or associated with Pennsylvania state government in any way. Similar scams have been reported in other states. These documents should be disregarded by all companies that receive them.
 
Additionally, please keep in mind that any official notices sent to businesses by the Pennsylvania Department of State or the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office will contain the letterhead and/or contact information for the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations. Please contact the Bureau at (717) 787-1057 or ra-corps@pa.gov should you have any questions or concerns regarding these solicitations.