We’d like to share with you a recent scam we’ve noticed. This scam falls well within the ripoff range. That makes it almost impossible to get your money back if you’ve fallen for this scam. When it comes to the ripoff range, the best thing you can do is to protect yourself from scammers, because there is very little to do after the fact.
What is the Ripoff Range?
Many people don’t realize this, but your local police don’t have the time or the staff to follow up on every crime that is reported. Instead, they have to prioritize. So cases that involve small amounts of money usually don’t get that much attention.
Another barrier to collecting on a small amount is the court system. While there is no legal minimum amount you can sue someone for, it may not be worth suing for a small amount. There are some basic filing fees (less than $35 in most cases), plus the time it takes you to file all the paperwork and go through the court system. And you’re not guaranteed to win after all that. Another little known fact about small claims court is that even if you do win, you don’t get your money right away. It may take further law enforcement or court action to actually force the losing party to pay up.
The result of these barriers is what we call the ripoff range. Scam artists know that any amount under $10,000 will have to go to small claims court. Most lawyers don’t want to bother with small claims because lawyers usually take payment in the form of a percentage of the money won. Small claims mean small payouts for the lawyers. And the amount of time and energy it would take you to run the case on your own may just not be worth the money you would retrieve.
And that, right there, is the ripoff zone. Instead of stealing $100,000 once and facing some serious charges, a scammer steals $1,000 a hundred times. Neither the police nor lawyers nor everyday consumers have the time and energy to spend retrieving $1,000, so the thief gets away, time after time.
The Latest Scam
We got a very official looking letter that said to open it up right away. It was from the Georgia Certificate Service, complete with an official logo. It was a 2019 Certificate of Existence Request Form. The letter said that you had to fill out the form inside to get a certificate of existence for your Georgia business. Just send Georgia Certificate Service a check or money order for $72.50 to receive your certificate of existence.
They almost had us fooled, until we noticed in tiny text right in the middle of the page the following disclaimer: “This is not a government agency.”
Ordering a Certificate of Existence
We called the Georgia Secretary of State to find out what was going on. It turns out, Georgia Certificate Service was selling you something you could get directly from the state for just $10. It’s not hard to get. Just follow this link.
A certificate of existence is simply a document from the state that confirms that your business is registered with the secretary of state and legal to do business in Georgia. You don’t have to have a copy to be in business, though a bank may request it if you try to take out a business loan. Gorgia Certificate Service wants you to send them $72.50 so they can take less than five minutes ordering your certificate online for just $10. They pocket the rest.
Is it illegal? Not exactly. Is it a scam? Absolutely. Will most consumers pursue them for the theft of $62.50? Probably not. How much do they stand to make off of this scam? If they can get just 500 hundred people to respond to their scam letter, they can pocket over $30,000 on this scam alone. And you’d better bet that this isn’t the only scam like this that they’re running.
Check the Address
We decided to pay Georgia Certificate Service a visit to see just how many people they had managed to steal money from. On their letter, it said to mail your check or money order to 925B Peachtree St NE Suite 462. So we took a stroll down Peachtree Street to pay them a visit. But when we got to 925B Peachtree Street NE, there were no offices. Just a UPS store full of mailboxes, each with its own suite number.
This is an old trick that lots of scammers use. They list a real-looking address that is really just a mailbox. The companies that sell these mailboxes, like UPS, won’t tell you who owns them. So we have no way of telling who’s really behind the Georgia Certificate Service.
Take a good hard look at any official paperwork you receive. If it’s unsolicited you should be suspicious from the start. Don’t hesitate to call the secretary of state or any other office to find out if they actually sent you something. And never send anyone money in the mail until you are 100% sure they are legitimate.