Secretary of State Warns Against Third-Party Business Filings
CHARLESTON — For the second year in a row, the West Virginia Secretary of State is warning businesses about third-party companies offering assistance for businesses with filing annual reports required by the office.
Secretary of State Mac Warner issued a press release Tuesday night warning businesses about mailings from a company offering to prepare annual reports for profit.
Businesses operating in West Virginia are required to register with the Secretary of State’s Office and file an annual report with the office each year by the end of June. These annual reports can be filed any time starting in January and cost $26 to file online. According to the office, 98 percent of businesses filed online for the 2019 reporting period.
“If you or your business receive a suspicious solicitation from a non-government entity, please take care to research the third party and confirm it is a legitimate business and properly registered with our office,” Warner said. “Though it might look like an official notification, this does not mean that it came from a government agency.”
Last year, ANS, doing business as Workplace Compliance Services, sent letters encouraging businesses to file their annual report through them.
The letters included a disclaimer in all-caps that the company was not a government agency, but made the letters look like an official government document.
Workplace Compliance Services charged businesses $100 to file the annual report with the Secretary of State.
This year, another company, C.P.F.S. is sending official-looking mailers asking businesses to respond by Dec. 13 for filing their annual report, a report that can’t be filed with the Secretary of State until Jan. 1.
C.P.F.S. shares the same Charleston address as Workplace Compliance Systems, though C.P.F.S. does not appear to be a registered business itself. The fee for filing an annual report with C.P.F.S. is $125.
A cease-and-desist order was sent to Workplace Compliance Services at the beginning of 2019 and in April an agreement was reached between the Secretary of State and Workplace Compliance Services.
In the agreement, negotiated by the Attorney General, Workplace Compliance Services refunded money to more than 2,000 businesses that paid the $100 fee believing the mailers sent by Workplace Compliance Services were on behalf of the state. The refund was only for companies that paid $100 to Workplace Compliance Services, but had yet to file their annual report.
Businesses that paid Workplace Compliance Services and had already had their annual report filed by the company did not receive a refund.
As part of the agreement, Workplace Compliance Services was required to send new mailers with updated disclaimers stating that it was not a government agency. The mailers also were required to notify the business that they could file directly with the Secretary of State’s office online for $26.
For businesses needing assistance with filing their annual reports starting in January, business owners can visit the One Stop Business Center in Charleston and the business hubs in Clarksburg and Martinsburg for in-person assistance from a business and licensing specialist. Locations for the business center and hubs can be found at wvsos.gov. A toll-free phone number is also available to speak to a specialist at 1-866-767-8683.
A request for comment sent to Alex Macia, an attorney for ANS, was not returned.