The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against Centurion Filing Services LLC, for alleged deceptive solicitations targeting new Mississippi businesses.
The action follows countless complaints to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Business Services Division and a cease-and-desist letter from the AG’s office, to which the company has not responded.
“This scam has affected more than 2,700 of our small businesses,” said Secretary of State Michael Watson. “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hinder our business community, and no Mississippian should face the additional nightmare of becoming a victim of fraud. I’m proud of my team for working diligently to gather the facts in this case, and I’m thankful for the attorney general’s partnership in bringing justice those who have been impacted.”
Watson said his office first received reports about Centurion in February. According to customers, the company, which operates under the fictitious name, MS Certificate Service, targets new businesses by sending a misleading “2020 Certificate of Existence Request Form” through the mail (see the image below). The misleading document encourages business owners to pay a $90.50 fee to receive a Mississippi Certificate of Existence. To date, more than 2,700 businesses have been affected, and the scammers have profited between $170,000 and $260,000.
The lawsuit notes that Centurion’s letters include elements meant to make new business owners believe they must make the payment through the form, which is intentionally designed to look like an official State document.
“Con artists like Centurion are making themselves out to be official state agencies in an attempt to exploit vulnerable business owners in our state,” Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in a statement. “This lawsuit was filed to stop Centurion’s fraudulent practices and to protect Mississippi’s small-business owners.”
Mississippi businesses can receive a Certificate of Good Standing from the Secretary of State’s website. Online processing costs $25 and the certificate is available immediately after purchase.
Businesses can report deceptive or misleading solicitations such as these to the Business Services Division at 601-359-1633, to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-281-4418 or email [email protected].