If you are an Illinois business owner who has received a letter attempting to collect a fee for business compliance, beware it is being investigated as a scam by the Illinois Secretary of State police.
The letter sent by Corporate Records Service implies the money is due to complete a corporation's "Annual Minutes Record Form."
The Small Business Practice Group at Palatine-based Lavelle Law Ltd. has fielded more than a dozen calls from clients in recent weeks confused by the additional fee they believed was being required by the state of Illinois.
"The form is carefully crafted and worded so that it gives the impression it is from the state of Illinois, according to our clients. It says [business owners] have to send this form in, so minutes can be prepared on their behalf, and the annual cost of this service is $125," said Jim Voigt, who heads up the Lavelle Law small business practice group.
Voigt said there is a legal requirement that businesses record minutes, but that is normally taken care of during corporate compliance, which is conducted by law firms.
What makes this scam worse, Voigt said, is that Corporate Records Service is asking for information about private shareholders, which is privileged information.
"It appears this a deceptive advertisement," Voigt said.
Voigt said the only time shareholder information would be required would be by a lender if a company were seeking a loan.
"This type of request wouldn't come from the state of Ilinois or a legitimate business; if the company in question were a law firm, this would clearly be an ethics violation," Voigt said.
The Illinois Secretary of State website is warning business owners to beware of the scam.
"The problem is that the form this bogus firm is sending out looks similar to our Secretary of State's annual report form," according to the Secretary of State website. "We are concerned that companies are filing the form and paying the $125 because they believe they are filing their annual report with us, as required by law."