Happy New Year, friends! Now that it’s January and the window opens for filing of corporate and LLC annual reports with the Florida Secretary of State, I wanted to touch on an issue that business owners should look out for – the official-looking mail marked “Important”, “Urgent” or the like. I often receive panicked calls from clients concerned about notices they received in the mail that look similar to the notice pictured on the right, directing them to fill out a form and submit it with a payment that is entirely unnecessary. These are typically prompted by public filings the business made recently, or often, the annual report filing window. In many cases the sender will indeed do what they purport to do if you pay them – file your annual report or fictitious name registration or whatever the case may be – but they will add in a fee on top of the regulatory filing fee, and the work they bill for is often unnecessary, has already been handled by your attorney, or can easily be handled by the business on its own.

Of course, as consumers, we get all kinds of mail that looks official but that we can easily tell is  junk. But when it comes to business mail, it can be harder to tell for business owners and employees who don’t deal with regulatory agencies on a regular basis. While the Federal Trade Commission does go after businesses that utilize deceptive tactics like this, it is more concerned with protecting consumers than businesses, and its resources are limited.

When you receive mail that looks official, be sure to read it carefully before responding. Somewhere buried in the official-looking black and white, a junk notice will typically say the sender is “not a government agency.” When in doubt, contact your business attorney.