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TN Secretary of State warns business owners to beware of scam

Secretary of State Tre Hargett is warning Tennessee business owners about a scam that has recently resurfaced targeting businesses with a deceptive mailer from a company that goes by two names: Tennessee Certificate Service and TN Certificate of Existence Filing Company.

“Our Division of Business and Charitable Organizations and I personally have heard of multiple complaints from business owners across Tennessee about these misleading mailers. We have seen scams like this before, with similar deceptive language that implies that businesses must have a Certificate of Existence to complete its formation or to fully operate in the state,” said Secretary Hargett. “This is not the case. Unfortunately, businesses who order a Certificate of Existence through these scammers may be paying an exorbitant amount for something that is totally unnecessary or would only cost $20 through our office.” 

The misleading mailer titled 2022 Certificate of Existence Request has been sent to businesses across the state—purporting that all Tennessee businesses are required to pay a fee of either $83 or $175.50 for this third-party company to step in and complete the Certificate of Existence paperwork on businesses’ behalf.  However, a Certificate of Existence can be obtained directly from the Secretary of State’s office for just $20, either by phone, mail or online at tnbear.tn.gov/Ecommerce/CertOfExistenceInstr.aspx.The mailer makes it appear that the 2022 Certificate of Existence Request is part of the business entity’s registration process: “A Certificate of Existence certifies that your Tennessee business is in existence, is authorized to transact business in the state and complies with all state requirements.” 

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The mailer and organization are not affiliated with or authorized by the Secretary of State’s Office in any way. Businesses may wish to obtain a Certificate of Existence in certain circumstances, such as a loan closing or other business transaction. However, they are not required to do so as a matter of course during the business formation process. Secretary Hargett encourages business owners to call the Division of Business and Charitable Organizations by phone at 615-741-2286 or email TNSOS.CERT@tn.gov if they receive a questionable mailer or want to know more about obtaining a Certificate of Existence.

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