They arrive in the mail and look like official government documents. However, looks can be deceiving and in this case, they are at the heart of a scam. U.S. Postal Inspector Laura Carter says the company "Corporate Records Service" used misleading mailings to trick thousands of small business owners into paying unnecessary fees.
"The forms these businesses were receiving looked legitimate they looked like a governmental document that was a requirement," explained Carter.
For $125.00, CRS offered to fill out forms supposedly "required" by the state. The forms looked urgent-written in legal language with a "please respond by" mark in the corner.
"The scammers have gotten very creative and very good at mimicking the labels, the logos, the whole impression of it being government documents," explained Abby Kuzma, Director of Consumer Protection.
The owners of CRS,Thomas and Steven Fata,are the subject of complaints in at least 11 states including Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, arizona, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin. The two are awaiting trial and are the subject of a court order not to send deceptive mailings.
"Ordinarily, when you get a document that looks like a government document, you respond. We really need to let people know that people are scamming in this way," said Kuzma.
"We always suggest to people, please check with out local attorney general's office or your local Better Business Bureau to always find out whether or not this is a legitimately required item," said Carter.