Today South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond issued an updated advisory regarding continued scams offering to sell bogus documents and certified copies to businesses.
“Our office continues to receive complaints from businesses regarding solicitations that offer to provide phony certificates and certified records from the Secretary of State’s Office, at a significant upcharge from fees currently permitted by statute. Last month, our office began receiving complaints about an entity called SC Certificate Service selling bogus ‘South Carolina Certificates of Status’ for $87.25. Now, we are receiving additional complaints about an entity called ‘Division of Corporate Services,’ or ‘D.O.C.S.,’ selling certified copies of articles of organization for $79.25. Businesses and consumers need to know that neither of these entities are connected with the Secretary of State’s Office, and that they are not required to respond to these solicitations in order to conduct business in our state.”
The “South Carolina Certificate of Status” scam purports to sell businesses a phony document that is not issued by the Secretary of State’s Office, and that serves no legitimate purpose in verifying a business’s good standing in South Carolina. The “Division of Corporate Services” or “D.O.C.S.” solicitation is a variation of the “South Carolina Certificate of Status” scam in that “D.O.C.S” is offering to act as an intermediary between the consumer and the Secretary of State’s Office to obtain certified copies. This solicitation is exploitative in that businesses that file articles of organization are provided with certified copies at the time of filing, and that the fee for certified copies is grossly inflated. Customers can obtain certified copies from the Secretary of State’s Office are $3.00 for the first page and $.50 for each additional page, rather than $79.25 as indicated in the “D.O.C.S.” solicitation. Furthermore, the letter sent from “D.O.C.S.” is coercive in that it appears to be an official form on its face, and asks the recipient to verify that its company information is correct with a deadline for response.
“I ask that anyone receiving a solicitation offering to provide business documents to contact the Secretary of State’s Office so that we may forward it to law enforcement,” said Secretary Hammond. “The Secretary of State’s Office will never send unsolicited correspondence to businesses for the purpose of selling certificates of existence or certified copies. Moreover, businesses can obtain certified copies and certificates of existence directly through the Secretary of State’s website for minimal fees. These solicitations are a blatant scheme to separate businesses from of their hard-earned money for no legitimate purpose.”
Businesses wishing to report a suspicious solicitation may contact the Secretary of State’s Investigations Division at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Business Filings Division can be reached at (803) 734-2158 or through the Secretary of State’s website at sos.sc.gov.