“CORPORATE SERVICE COMPANIES” AND SOME OTHER TYPES OF
MISLEADING MAILINGS COMMONLY DIRECTED AT BUSINESS OWNERS
Corporate Service Companies
This type of mailing is typically formatted to look like an official communication from the
Georgia Secretary of State (usually like an annual registration form). Unless you read the mailing
closely, it may imply that you are required to use their service to do something like file corporate
minutes with the Secretary of State.
The following are facts:
- You are required to file an annual registration form with the Georgia Secretary of State or
possibly face the eventual administrative dissolution of your business entity.1 The form is
extremely simple and should be filed with a filing fee of $30. While you should receive an
annual registration form and reminder from the Secretary of State unless the Secretary of
State does not have your entity’s current address, you can file the annual registration online
- If you have a corporation and fail to follow formalities such as conducting an annual
meeting, it is true that a court could take that into account in deciding whether to ignore the
existence of your corporation and hold you personally liable for what otherwise would have
been the corporation’s liabilities.
The following are untrue:
- You have to file your annual meeting minutes with the Secretary of State.
- You have to pay someone else “official” connected with the Secretary of State to prepare
your annual meeting documents.
- You have to pay someone else to complete your annual registration form or to file your
annual registration form.
More information regarding some of these scams can be found on the Georgia Secretary of
State’s Web site at the page http://www.sos.ga.gov/Corporations/.
See http://www.sos.ga.gov/Corporations/Administrative%20Dissolutions%20FAQ.pdf and
http://www.sos.ga.gov/Corporations/admin_dissolution.htm for information about administrative
Domain Name Renewals
If you have a domain name, you probably receive deceptive e-mails and/or letters urging
you to renew your registration. This correspondence generally looks very official and often looks
like an invoice.
It is true that you must periodically renew your domain name registration, but you will
typically renew your domain name registration through the company through which you initially
registered your domain name. If you have a Web site hosting company, your Web site hosting
company may take care of renewing your domain name for you.
Some companies search public records for domain name owners and generate mailings to
them. Typically, what they are doing is tricking the domain name owner into paying a much higher
fee than they would have to pay in order to renew their domain name through their current registrar,
and perhaps also having their registration transferred to the scammer’s registrar.
Another variation of these scams is mailings that are made to look like a renewal but
actually are trying to get you to register a domain name similar to one that you already have – either
with a similar but different spelling, or with a different top-level domain (such as “.biz” or “.org”
rather than “.com”.
If you get a domain name renewal notice, look to see if it comes from the company with
which you registered your domain originally. If you have a Web site, check with the company that
handles the hosting of your Web site – likely, they handle renewal of your domain name for you.
Also, put the person at your company who is in charge of paying invoices on notice regarding these
scams. Often, if these “invoices” are presented to someone is not also responsible for handling the
domain name for the company, they will not know any better and will just pay the invoice.
Scams Directed at Trademark Owners
Trademark owners often receive letters from companies that request fees for performing
trademark-related services such as document filing and trademark monitoring. These
communications are often tailored to look like official government agency communications or
forms, and frequently display customer-specific information. To further deceive people, these
companies often adopt names that are very official-sounding that make it sound like the
communication is coming from a government entity.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued a notice at
http://www.uspto.gov/web/trademarks/notices/warning_to_uspto_customers.htm regarding these
In each case, there might be some value to the services being offered by the companies, and
under some circumstances business owners may wish to avail themselves of the services. However,
the methods used in marketing these services are often deceptive, and business owners should not
be tricked under false pretenses into paying someone else money to perform unnecessary services or
services that they could perform themselves or through someone else for less money.
This memorandum is not intended to provide legal advice with respect to any particular
situation, and no legal or business decision should be based solely on its content.