For more than a year the state of Florida has issued warnings to small business owners to not pay fees through unofficial fictitious name renewal notices.
“I think it's a shame I wish the state had more authority to shut down entities that are fraudulently trying to take people's money,” Michelle Yates said.
Yates received a notice in the mail to renew her small business license from a company called Florida Assumed Name Services. They asked Yates to pay for the registration fee with a check or credit card. Their fee is $125, the state only charges a $50 filing fee.
Yates said all of the information for her small business was correct and she didn’t think anything of it. A month later she said she got another notice in the mail and compared the two.
“I pulled both of them out and started to examine them and that's when I realized the first one I received was not legitimate, it was not from the state of Florida,” Yates said. “I realized the official card had the seal from the state of Florida and it had Sunbiz.org on it.”
According to Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office they have received 17 complaints since January. Most of the complaints are to report the fraudulent mailer and to alert the state. But, some of the complaints are from victims who said they paid the fee and never received their registration from the state.
The AG’s office would not comment further because of their pending investigation. Yates wants to know if there is any other alleged criminal activity that people who paid the unofficial fee don't know about.
“Particularly, it concerns me that elderly people or small people or anyone working from home would inadvertently give them their credit card information and where that might end up,” Yates said. “They would have had my banking information, my legal name, address, enough information they would have possibly opened a credit account anything using my name and that really concerns me.”
We called Florida Assumed Name Services at, 1700 North Monroe Street #11-209 Tallahassee, FL 32303 for comment, but have not heard back.