I recently heard from a long time business acquaintance who told me a remarkable story about being scammed by a firm called Florida Filings in the process of filing their annual report on the Florida Secretary of State’s website. Their story goes like this:
“My boss asked me to pay the annual report in March 2010. I went to sunbiz.org and pressed the link on their site called filing services and filled out the form. I gave the credit card information and faxed it back. The form clearly states, you will see a charge on your bank records that say Florida Filings. The internet link and the document had the Florida state logo and sunbiz.org. I did not question it and sent it in. Many companies use a merchant service company to process credit cards.
In August, my boss calls me and said he received a $400 penalty from the State of Florida for not filing the annual report. I called the Division of Corporations, they directed me to call Florida Filings, that I did not deal with the State. I had to pay the tax again and the penalty. The Florida legislature passed a law this year that said under no circumstances could the penalty be waived.
I wrote the Attorney General’s office and complained about Florida Filings and asked how it is that the Division of Corporations knew about this company and knew people were being ripped off. They wrote back and said they knew businesses were being taken and had contacted 312 of them to warn them and gave them the chance to waive their penalty, get their money back and re-file. We just happened to be missed in those calls.”
BOTTOM LINE: Forewarned is forearmed. Be wary when you’re using your credit card online, even if it appears to be a legitimate website affiliated with the Florida Secretary of State’s own website, www.sunbiz.org.
On another note, if you know of a business owner who’s thinking of selling or buying a business and who might benefit from a free, confidential, consultation with us, have them contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Mike Ertel, Transworld M&A Advisors