By: David C. Tingstad, Business and Real Estate Lawyer and Jennifer Takamoto, Business Law Paralegal.
At Beresford Booth we pride ourselves on helping small businesses owners open their new business. We understand small businesses are built on hard work and our clients are putting all their time and money into their exciting new venture. They have come to our office because they want to set up their business the right way and ensure they are in compliance with all the pertinent rules and regulations. It is these same honest hard-working people, who want to do the right thing, that scammers have been targeting for years. Here in Washington State, our Attorney General has taken notice and filed a consumer protection lawsuit (King County Cause No. 22-2-03865-9 SEA).
The scammers in question scrape public information from the Secretary of State and use that information to mail deceptive letters, specifically designed to look like they are from a legitimate government agency, indicating you need a to pay over $80 for a Certificate (that you can get for $20 from the State) or $79 for a poster (that you can get online for free from the State). The Washington State Attorney General has evidence that over $1.2 million dollars has been paid by Washington State business owners as a result. These scammers have admitted that business owners are not required to purchase either the certificate or poster to operate business in Washington.
The State’s lawsuit names CA Certificate Service, Labor Poster Compliance, and all of their owners in their individual capacity. Both entities operate nationwide and have been sued in other states for their deceptive solicitations. In addition, it appears these individual owners are not new to this scam and have settled lawsuits under different entity names for similar practices in other states the past.
The State’s Summary Judgment Motion, which will be heard on October 21, 2022, is asking, among other things, these owners be held personally liable for their wrongdoing and bad-faith conduct, pay full refunds including interest to the victims, and pay civil penalties for each violation. The State is also seeking future protection for consumers by awarding a penalty for each new solicitation made to business owners.
The Attorney General says: “My office is seeking to put a stop to these scammers and get Washington business owners their money back — with interest,” Ferguson said. “If you received these letters, and especially if you paid for documents as a result, we want to hear from you. You can help us end this scam and hold those responsible accountable.”
If you have received a letter from WA Certificate Service or Labor Poster Compliance you can file a complaint online at atg.wa.gov/file-complaint or call the office toll-free at 1-800-551-4636.
If you have any questions about identifying these scams or entity formation in general, please email me at email@example.com or call me at (425) 776-4100.