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Businesses beware — Secretary of State warns against certificate scam

The Office of Secretary of State Michael Watson is warning businesses in the state not to fall for a scam requesting money for “certificates of existence.”

The office has continued to receive reports from the business community regarding a company using the fictitious name “MS Certificate Service.” According to complaints, the company is soliciting misleading “2020 Certificate of Existence Request Forms” to businesses throughout the state, particularly new businesses.

Watson’s office first issued a warning in February regarding the letters requesting a $90.50 fee to order certain business documents from the Secretary of State’s Office.

As of Thursday, the scammers had profited more than $175,000 from Mississippi businesses, the office reported.

Registered businesses in Mississippi do not need to respond or send payment to MS Certificate Service. A certificate of good standing in the state of Mississippi can be ordered online at sos.ms.gov. Online processing costs $25 and is immediate.

Businesses may report deceptive or misleading solicitations to the Secretary of State’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline is 1-800-281-4418.

Misleading solicitations may:

  • Require a fee.
  • Cite specific Mississippi statutes.
  • Contain a due date for your response.
  • Appear similar to a government form.
  • Contain a “Customer ID Number” that does not match a number given to you by a State or Federal Agency.
  • Contain a warning to make sure that the form’s instructions are followed exactly when completing the form.
  • Contain your business entity’s actual business ID number and date of formation, as reflected in the Secretary of State’s business records.

For more information, call the Secretary of State’s Business Services Division at 601-359-1633 or 1-800-256-3494. Information is also available on the Business Services tab of sos.ms.gov.

“Our office will continue to work closely with the Attorney General’s Office to protect Mississippi businesses from this deceitful practice,” Watson said in a press release.