State officials are warning business owners to be on alert for a reporting scam that claims to be an official notice from the state.
In a joint release, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Attorney General George Jepsen warned of a mailing sent by “Workplace Compliance Services” that claims to be an official “Annual Report Instruction Form” that requests payment, citing Connecticut law.
Officials say this is a scam, and that there is no need for businesses to file a form from Workplace Compliance Services or to pay any fee. The scam may look official and references Connecticut state law.
After almost two dozen complaints, the attorney general's office launched an investigation to track down the source of those letters. NBC Connecticut spoke with a savvy business owner who said she knew something wasn't right.
“There was no state seal or anything that indicated that it was an official state document," Cynthia Kaplan explained.
She opened it up and saw a letter from the “Workplace Compliance Services” in West Hartford. The mailing appears to be an “Annual Report Instruction Form,” alleging that payment is required by Connecticut law.
In Kaplan’s case, the form instructed her to send a check to cover a $20 report fee, along with an additional $110 processing fee to file her annual report. Connecticut businesses do file a report that can be filed directly with the state on line.
“It was too many things that did not look like they were an official document. In addition, it’s an annual report that I do file electronically every year," Kaplan said.
According to the state, the deceptive solicitation may look legit and references a Connecticut state law. But it also pressures business owners to pay right away or be dissolved.
Kaplan didn’t fall for it. Even though, she says the report fee is consistent with what she’s paid before.
“You have to log on with username and password and click through a few different windows and pay your amount by credit card online through the Department of Administrative services," she said.
NBC Connecticut Responds went to the West Hartford address listed on the letter which is a UPS store. We showed the letter to a UPS employee, who confirmed the P.O. Box number 248, but couldn’t comment further.
Then we called the number listed on the form in which the message told us we could file on our own, wait to speak with a representative or leave a message.
Jepsen said the mailings target small business owners who often don't have the resources to fight back.
“Frequently they ask for amounts of money that are not huge and so it’s sometimes just easier to pay it and then be done with it. But in the course of paying it, you end up giving up personal information or business information that they can then use again and again," Jepsen said.
He said business owners need to be vigilant.
“Most of these scammers are from out of state. So, they’re very difficult to find and so prevention is really the key," he said.
Businesses in the state are only required to file Annual Reports with the state, which can be done online at ct.gov/annualreport.
Any businesses who receive the bogus mailing should file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General.