COLUMBUS – Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose warned Ohio business owners to be on the lookout for a deceptive mailing from a business that is selling government documents for a significantly marked up price.
The Secretary of State’s office provides Certificates of Good Standing to Ohio businesses, a document that confirms a business is properly registered and authorized to do business in the state of Ohio. While this certificate is not required to do business, it is sometimes needed by a business and is provided by the Secretary of State’s Office for the cost of $5.
LaRose recently learned of a letter being sent to some business owners from a company called OH Certificate Service with an address of 1391 W. 5th Ave., Suite 332, Columbus. The letter implied that business owners need a Certificate of Good Standing from the Secretary of State’s Office, and the letter seeks to charge the business owner $67.50 for the certificate. It’s not evident at this time how many Ohio businesses may have received this letter.
“Entrepreneurs have enough on their mind as they work to grow their business,” LaRose said. “Deceptive mailings that look official but only serve to bilk Ohioans of their hard-earned money are simply unacceptable. If you need a Certificate of Good Standing, call my office and we’ll get you one for $5.”
In response, LaRose has added the following text to the communication new businesses receive from his office upon the business’ approval: “In the future if you need to obtain a Certificate of Good Standing, you may pay the $5.00 fee and instantly download from our website: OhioSoS.gov/GoodStanding. In most cases, a business would only need a Certificate of Good Standing when registering to do business in another state or country, competing for a government contract, or when seeking funding, insurance or potential business partners.”
LaRose also is working with the Ohio General Assembly to explore legislation that will require businesses attempting to provide Certificates of Good Standing to include text that informs the recipient that these certificates are available at the Secretary’s Office for $5. Additionally, the secretary is referring this case to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien to investigate whether this exorbitant markup constitutes any legal wrongdoing.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, small businesses nationwide have lost more than $290 million to scammers over the past several years. The Better Business Bureau stated “scam activity directed at small businesses is growing, that these scams pose a significant risk, and that they can result in a higher monetary loss than those targeting individuals.”
For more on the Ohio Secretary of State’s Business Services Division, visit OhioSOS.gov/Businesses.