MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A warning now for Mid-South organizations, including churches and businesses. If you get an official-looking notice that claims you need to pay to get a ‘Tennessee Certificate of Existence’ – don’t believe it.
The Tennessee Secretary of State said it's a scam. Secretary of State Tre Hargett first issued the warning to business owners across Tennessee last year, and it’s popping back up.
Randy Hutchinson with the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South spoke with ABC 24 Wednesday about the alert.
What is the scam?
In a news release, Hargett said the fake mailer comes from what appears to be a Nashville company that goes by two names: “Tennessee Certificate Service” and “TN Certificate of Existence Filing Company.”
The misleading mailer is titled “2021" or "2022 Certificate of Existence Request” and claims all Tennessee businesses are required to pay a fee of either $83.00 or $175.50 for this third-party company to step in and complete the Certificate of Existence paperwork on their behalf.
There is a certificate available, but it's not required to do business
The fake mailer makes it appear you need a certificate as part of your businesses' registration process. But Hargett said it's not required.
A Certificate of Existence can be obtained directly from the Secretary of State’s office for just $20, either by phone, mail or online HERE.
The certificates are available should a business owner need one for a loan closing or other business transaction, but they are not required as part of the formation of a business or organization.
"Multiple complaints from business owners across Tennessee"
“Our Division of Business Services and myself personally have been hearing multiple complaints from business owners across Tennessee about these misleading mailers,” said Secretary Hargett. “We have seen scams like this before, with similar deceptive language that implies that businesses must have a certificate of existence to complete its formation or to fully operate in the state. This is not the case. Unfortunately, businesses who order a certificate of existence through these scammers may be paying for something that is totally unnecessary – at the very least they will be spending $50 to $150 more than what our office charges for this document when ordered from us directly.”
Contact Secretary of State with questions
Secretary Hargett encourages business owners to call the Division of Business Services at 615-741-2286 if they receive such a questionable mailer or have questions about obtaining a Certificate of Existence.