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Watch out: businesses using fake certificates

by Christina Siderius | March 4th, 2010

corpsgraphicWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: When it comes to turning over your money to someone else – whether to a charity or investment firm – check to make sure that organization is in compliance with the law and is properly registered with the state!

The Corporations Division has recently been alerted to online investment businesses that are displaying and using fraudulent certificates that claim they are registered with the State of Washington. Yet, the State of Washington has no record of these businesses.

Corporations Divisions Director Pam Floyd said these businesses are getting ahold of a legitimate state-issued certificate and changing the name and information on them. Then they use these fake certificates to “prove” to customers that they are legitimate businesses. Yikes!

 “This situation is a warning for consumers, and reinforces the fact that if you are handing over your hard-earned cash to a company, you should know who they are before you do so,” said Floyd. “You have to ask yourself, would a legitimate business use a fraudulent certificate?”

Some tips to protect your pocketbook? Check to see if the corporation or charity you are dealing with is registered with the Secretary of State’s Office or Department of Licensing. In the case of investment businesses, check with the Department of Financial Institutions’ Securities Department. If it’s not, that’s an instant red flag.

The Secretary of State’s Office does not handle enforcement, but refers consumers to the Attorney General and the FBI’s Internet Crimes Division.

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