PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island businesses are being targeted with a direct mail solicitation scam letter from an organization calling itself Rhode Island Corporate Compliance, the Secretary of State’s office warned Friday.
The organization, which targeted the state’s for-profit corporations in February, are now turning their attention to Rhode Island’s 27,000 limited liability companies with an official-looking notice that directs small businesses to pay the group to avoid being in “bad standing.”
Businesses are instructed to send $125 to what turns out to be a P.O. Box, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
“In fact, the form looks so legitimate that many LLCs are asking us whether we sent the notice,” Chris Barnett of the Secretary of State’s Office said in an e-mail. “The February’s mailing to for-profit corporations must have paid off big time for RICC to try Rhode Island again so soon,” he said.
“We’re advising businesses to be wary of anything they get in the mail that appears to come from us,” said Barnett, adding that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is now involved.
Barnett said that the Secretary of State’s Office has received hundreds of calls so far regarding the RICC scam and more than 100 since the LLC letters hit in March.
In fact, Barnett said that more LLCs are contacting the Secretary of State’s Office after they have already paid the fee than compared with the for-profit corporations.
“Too many people have been confused by the mailing,” said Barnett’s e-mail. “We’re assuring them that it did not come from our office and they are not required to file with us or any other state agency.”
The Secretary of State’s Office has asked the R.I. Attorney General to take a look at the latest mailing, since it targets the state’s LLC companies but still refers to the law regarding for-profit corporations.
“Regretfully, it appears this letter is as skillfully written as first one was. The mailing does not appear to violate the letter of the law,” said Barnett.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is asking anyone who has paid the $125 fee to report it to them at 401-276-8630.
The official-looking letter, which tells business owners that failure to submit an “Annual Disclosure Statement,” requests a $125 “Document Fee” to help businesses avoid potential noncompliance.
“But state law doesn’t require LLCs to keep those records, let alone require them to file those records with us or any other state agency,” said Barnett, who added that the SOS’s office tracked the RICC’s address to a postal box number at a UPS store in downtown Providence.