New Business Owner Alert: Misleading Certificate of Existence Solicitations Sent Out Statewide

January 24th, 2020

(Atlanta) - Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is alerting Georgia’s business community about misleading mailers that were sent out to new businesses across the state. Many of Georgia’s new business owners have received deceptive letters that could mislead them into believing additional fees are necessary to complete their business registration process.

“Georgia’s entrepreneurs are crucial to a successful and thriving Georgia economy,” said Raffensperger. “As a small business owner myself, I am working to help ensure Georgia’s small businesses are protected from scams and misleading practices.”

These mailers, a sample of which can be found here, intentionally look like official government mail requesting $72.50 for a certificate of existence. The language in the letter is worded to imply that purchasing a certificate of existence is a necessary next step for the formation of your business. The language could trick new businesses into ordering a certificate through their service at several times the cost of doing so directly with the Secretary of State’s office. The soliciting organization uses a false implication of urgency to pressure new business owners into unnecessarily spending the extra money.

New domestic Georgia business formations do not need certificates of existence to complete registration as businesses in Georgia.

Cost to order a certificate of existence directly from the Secretary’s office: Online: $10. Paper: $20. Certificates of existence can be ordered easily on the Secretary of State’s website HERE.

The misleading mailer effort is not new and has happened before both in Georgia and across the country.

National watchdog and government organizations have already warned extensively about these misleading solicitations:
Better Business Bureau: “Georgia Certificate Service”
Federal Trade Commission: “Certifiably shady”

If you have any further questions or concerns, please reach out to the Office of the Secretary of State, Corporations Division at 844-753-7825 or email [email protected].