When you form a Washington LLC, corporation, or other business entity, you end up wading through a lot of paperwork from various government agencies.
You’ll have formation-related documents from the Washington Secretary of State, business license-related documents from the Washington Department of Revenue, federal tax ID-related documents from the IRS, and more (especially if you have employees).
Unfortunately, at least one enterprising company has tried to trade on the confusion that can follow from this deluge of documents. A company calling itself “WA Certificate Service” has targeted newly-formed businesses by sending them a so-called “Certificate of Status Request Form.” This document looks like an official document from a government agency and asks for a $82.50 payment for a Certificate of Status from the Washington Secretary of State. However, in very small font in the middle of the page there is a line that reads “This is not a government agency.” Right—big help that is.
A Certificate of Existence (or Certificate of Status) is an actual document that can be ordered directly through the Secretary of State filing system for only $20, not the $82.50 requested in the letter. In effect, this company is trying to get you to pay them additional money to obtain this certificate on your behalf.
The Washington Secretary of State has apparently caught wind of this and posted a notification on its website here warning of these misleading letters, along with a sample version of the letter. My own opinion is that this company is preying on consumers and action should be taken to stop it.
In the meantime, stay aware new business owners—there are plenty of official-looking scams that can trip you up. Always verify you’re dealing with a government agency before sending any money or disclosing any information.