Knoxville pastor receives bogus letter demanding annual report f

Knoxville pastor receives bogus letter demanding annual report fee

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Rev. George Morris is pastor of the World for Christ Church that meets in North Knoxville. Since he ministers to a small congregation, Morris has to watch his pennies. Rev. George Morris is pastor of the World for Christ Church that meets in North Knoxville. Since he ministers to a small congregation, Morris has to watch his pennies.
The other day, an official looking document arrived from Nashville. He was requested to complete the church's annual minutes report and pay a fee. The other day, an official looking document arrived from Nashville. He was requested to complete the church's annual minutes report and pay a fee.
"I'm a small church here. I may not have a large congregation to do anything great, but if I can prevent someone from making a mistake, I think it would be worth the time," Rev. George Morris said. "I'm a small church here. I may not have a large congregation to do anything great, but if I can prevent someone from making a mistake, I think it would be worth the time," Rev. George Morris said.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Businesses, non-profit organizations, and even churches have to file an annual report with the state. A local minister called 6 On Your Side after receiving an unusual directive that looked just like an annual report.

You have to read the fine print to avoid being scammed.

The filing of annual reports to local, state, and federal agencies become automatic or routine because at certain times of every year you send off these documents.

Having to fill out an annual minutes report piqued Rev. George Morris' curiosity. It saved him $125.

Rev. Morris is pastor of the World for Christ Church that meets in North Knoxville. Since he ministers to a small congregation, Morris has to watch his pennies.

The other day, an official looking document arrived from Nashville. He was requested to complete the church's annual minutes report and pay a fee.

"In these hard economic times, $125 is really a lot. I personally felt victimized because we are a church," said Rev. Morris.

Lots of information is requested for the annual minutes report, which came from a company called Annual Business Services. Rev. Morris says the document was misleading.

"I actually thought that I did not pay my annual minute form. The thing that stood out to me was annual minutes. The State of Tennessee does not require minutes," he said.

Rev. Morris keeps his federal, state, and local documents that he's required to file yearly in a loose leaf folder. One of them is from the State Department of Revenue.

"This is the official paper that we pay every year as a business and register as a non-profit church. It's an annual report that is due for every church and every business for the State of Tennessee," Rev. Morris said. "[The fee is] $125."

That is the exact same amount Annual Business Services asked for.

"There is a government report you have to fill out, annual report, but it is not through these people," said Jerry Tipton, president of the Better Business Bureau.

Tipton says the bureau has issued an alert to businesses that may receive the request from Annual Business Services.

"[The service] basically collects your money. They do nothing. They do nothing for you at all," said Tipton.

Despite a disclaimer that says Annual Business Services is not a government agency, the timing of the form's arrival to Rev. Morris is not a coincidence.

"Interesting thing about this is they time these to coincide with the approximation of when your annual report is due," said Tipton.

Rev. Morris said he's worried other churches or businesses may have received the letter, without realizing it's a hoax.

"That was the very concern to me because there are a lot of churches in Knoxville," he said.

Pastor Morris says since he watches his books closely at the church. He did not forward the $125 to the address in Nashville.

"I'm a small church here. I may not have a large congregation to do anything great, but if I can prevent someone from making a mistake, I think it would be worth the time," he said.

Annual Business Services has an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Their letters aren't just sent to businesses and churches in Tennessee. Even a business in California called the local bureau complaining about the bogus service.

Business people are targeted just like individuals. You have to read every bit of correspondence carefully to make sure it's legitimate.

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