Better Business Bureau warns of misleading letter to businesses

Investigations

The Better Business Bureau of East Tennessee is issuing a warning to businesses that may receive a notice that appears to be from the state of Tennessee. The notice says that for just under $100, they can help fill out and send your annual report to the state. However, businesses owners can save themselves a lot of money by just ignoring the letter.

There are some businesses that want to make things easier for you, but for a fee. Earlier this year, WATE 6 On Your Side reported on a California company that told a Knoxville woman she had unclaimed money in the Tennessee treasury, and for a 10 percent fee, they could get the money for her. However, she could get the money herself for free.

A business in Gatlinburg brought the letter and report to the attention of the Better Business Bureau. At the top, the letterhead title says 2019 Annual Report and it comes from Workplace Compliance Services.

“They’re asking, they’re making it look like it’s an annual report and they’re asking the businesses to file this and send $95 that’s due before the end of December. You’ll also notice it says ‘Please Respond Today.’ They want you to do something quickly before you have the opportunity to think about it,” said BBB President Tony Binkley.

Binkley says businesses are supposed to fill out an annual report and get it to the state by April, not December. 

“All businesses are required to file an annual report,” Binkley said. “Generally they’ll mail it to you in October or November. You can do it manually or go online and file a report electronically.”

The report is found on the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website.  

“Under the business services, you’ll see file an annual report. If you click on that, then it will take you to another screen where you can e-file the report. By entering there you can enter your Secretary of State control number,” said Binkley. “It’s basic information. It’s, it’s contact information: name, address, registered agent, just general information about the business.”

Workplace Compliance Services has a disclaimer that says they are not a government agency and do not have a contract with any governmental agency to provide the service. However, they charge $95 while Binkley says the cost from the state is $20. 

The business in Gatlinburg did not send any money to Workplace Compliance Services.

Workplace Compliance Services, based in Trenton, New Jersey, says it is a human resources company that assists businesses in staying in compliance with annual state filings. The letter sent to the Gatlinburg business shows it was mailed from ZIP code 33912 in Ft. Myers, Florida. If filled out, a local business would sent their check to a West End Avenue address in Nashville which turns out to be a UPS store, not the Secretary of State’s office.

“It’s not a lot of money, but there are thousands of businesses in Tennessee so if you get a few hundred businesses to give you $95, you are in pretty good shape,” Binkley said.

While the solicitation looks official, the fee is a lot higher than the state charges. 

“Just take it slow. If anything says, ‘Please respond today,’ you’ll know it’s not a government agency asking you to do that,” Binkley said.

The letter and return envelope Workplace Compliance Services provides are very professional looking. They look just like government forms. However, they have nothing to do with the state of Tennessee. They’re just trying to get you to pay a $95 fee on top of a state government fee that only costs $20 and you can easily file online in a few minutes.

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