New Jersey Business Filing Services: Scam or Not?

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Last updated on July 25, 2019 Comments: 58

Update: I can’t believe this. I received a second notice from these hustlers — asking for even more money! Read the details at the bottom.

Here’s an idea for all you people who like to “hustle” to come up with ways to earn extra income. This has happened to me many times, and it comes it many forms. So far, I haven’t fallen for what I think is at worst a scam, but sometimes, one could argue, is a legitimate way to provide a service. I almost fell for this latest attempt, however, because it involves the nonprofit organization I recently formed. This business solicited me using a fairly popular and likely lucrative technique, which is basically as follows:

  • Receive lists from state governments that contain newly registered businesses.
  • Offer to provide a business-related product or service normally offered by the state, for a significant mark-up.
  • Give your business a name that can be easily confused with an official government entity.
  • Prepare and send through the mail a solicitation that looks like a bill or an invoice.
  • Provide a deadline and create a sense of urgency.

I have to imagine that a good number of business owners respond to these solicitations believing it is part of a government requirement. After all, there tend to be many government requirements when you file paperwork for a new business. There are two ways to look at these businesses that take advantage of people’s fear or apprehension of non-compliance with government. If you tend to believe that there’s a market for everything and all bad aspects of economies sort themselves out on their own, you will see this as a business simple providing a service to make money, catering to a specific market — even if that market consists mostly of people who are unsuspecting and ready to part with their money without doing much research.

On the other hand, you might see this as a sleazy and manipulative sales tactic, coming awfully close to impersonating a government official. Here is the most recent solicitation I received in the mail.

I didn’t scan the envelope before throwing it away, but it looked similar to envelopes I’ve received in the past from the state government. But all number 10 envelopes with address windows tend to look the same, anyway. I saw the name of the business in the return address as “New Jersey Business Filing Services,” so it immediately sounded official, but I am by nature somewhat skeptical. The mailing address was my first hint that something wasn’t right. An official state government organization should be based in Trenton, not East Windsor (where I grew up). But people living elsewhere in the state may not be familiar with the geography to know that this was not likely to be a state government address.

As you can see from the “bill” in the envelope, the New Jersey Business Filing Service’s designer did a good job of making the solicitation look like a bill from the government.

“Certificate of Good Standing.” First, in the top right, there is a reference to a “Certificate of Good Standing.” This is a legitimate type of document you can order from the state government. It’s not generally a necessary document, though it’s possible that you would have some business partners who might ask for it. It is, however, absolutely free to search the state’s business directory and determine the status of a corporation’s standing.

“Important! Follow instructions exactly when completing this form.” This notice under the address gets the readers attention, and directs him or her to read the instructions in fine print in the middle of the page. This equates the form with the government, because of the heightened importance of completing government forms accurately and honestly. Citizens generally understand there could be penalties for making mistakes on official forms; and this gives the reader the idea that the same might be true here.

Business identification number. This “bill” contains my business’s identification (ID) number in several places. The business ID number is assigned by the state government, so this easily puts the idea in the reader’s head that this is an official government bill. After all, how else would someone know your business’s identification number? It’s actually simple — the numbers are public, and anyone can find the identification number for any registered business in the state. Its presence on the form gives the impression of government authenticity. In any solicitation for a service, there would be no need to include a business’s own state identification number.

Dates in boxes. This is a standard feature on all invoices. Invoices are issued for services purchased or rendered, and are usually issued once an agreement has been made to purchase a product or service. By including two dates in boxes, with one being a larger date similar to a due date, this gives the impression that this is an invoice for an all ready agreed-upon transaction. “Don’t you remember making this agreement? Here’s what you owe.”

Bar codes. I covered up the two bar codes in this solicitation, one in the middle of the page and one on the remittance voucher, because I my bar code reader couldn’t decipher the message. It could simply be a pattern designed to look like a real bar code, or it could be an encoding of personal information. Either way, it has the same effect: it adds an impression of legitimacy to the mailing.

Remittance voucher and self-addressed return envelope. The lower portion of this solicitation is a remittance voucher. This is a common feature of bills sent through the mail. It signifies to the reader that he or she already owes the amount listed as the price of the product or service, and someone is waiting for that payment.

“The Certificate of Good Standing bears the official seal of the New Jersey State Treasurer.” This statement is the last, and probably most often read, sentence of the solicitation’s text. Combine that with the first sentence: “Congratulations on registering your business with the State of New Jersey.” These two statements together sound as official as any communication actually from the State of New Jersey would sound.

Form numbers. In small print at the bottom of the solicitation are some letter and number combinations that look suspicious. The government tends to include form numbers and revisions on their official applications and forms. For example, Form 1040-NJ is the form number used for one of the many forms available for filing state income tax returns. This is form “DR-392.” There is no need for this to be on a solicitation. It’s simply there to make the letter look official.

The same is true for the text that says “R.01/14.” This could mean this letter was last revised in January 2014. And perhaps that is true. But there’s no need to include that on a solicitation. There are reasons for state or federal governments to include revision numbers on forms and applications.

Despite all the above attempts to fool readers into thinking this is an official government notice, there is, however, one sentence on this solicitation that could help readers understand not only that this is not coming from an official government source, but it also not a necessary service. The solicitation includes the following text:

This product or service has not been approved or endorsed by the government, and this offer is not being made by an agency of the federal or New Jersey government.

Enough said. Or is it? I believe that most people will ignore this warning as they quickly complete this order form, as they are accustomed to doing for official state business, particularly when it comes to state taxes.

A short form standing certificate from the State of New Jersey is $50 for LLC and LLP organizations or $25 for other corporations, and you can order one for any company registered in the state. What this company, the “New Jersey Business Filing Services” company, is doing, is taking $74.98 from customers, ordering a $50 or $25 short form standing certificate, and passing it along to the customer. That’s a 50% or 200% mark-up, or not a bad business idea. The company is also offering a “package containing agreement templates for your business,” so they are potentially adding some value. That may be worth the additional $24.98, but certainly not $49.98. In fact, you can easily find free agreement templates online. What this company provides likely won’t be any better than what’s available online, and definitely wouldn’t be better than what your business attorney might write up for your business specifically.

When I received this envelope in the mail, I opened it right away. I’m eager to comply with any type of requirement by the state so I can continue doing business. I knew right away this was not a communication from the state, and I knew I had better options for what this solicitation was offering. I saw right away that this wasn’t a real invoice or a bill despite the company’s attempts to emulate one.

So is New Jersey Business Filing Services a scam? Well, it’s certainly misleading. There’s a disclaimer that should prevent people from calling it an outright scam, but I’d say it’s borderline. It’s a for-profit business, and the owners are just trying to use whatever tools are available and legal to earn a profit.

But business owners should be on the look-out for solicitations like these.

March update: I received a second notice asking for more money!

A month later, I received the same notice. They are truly trying to get me to spend money completely unnecessarily. I hope other business owners aren’t duped into paying “New Jersey Business Filing Services.”

This second notice has a new response date — March 14. The bottom of the form notes “R.01/15,” which I assume represented a more recently updated version of the form. But instead of asking for $74.98, these vultures are asking for $98.99! The same document costs a lot less money if you order it right from the State of New Jersey.

I wonder whether I’ll receive another notice after this new “deadline” passes, asking for even more money.

Please business owners, don’t fall for this.

Article comments

58 comments
Paul J Leonardo says:

THANK YOU. I just received a form from this company and almost paid it. I just started my business in October of 2020. Not being i business for a full year i figured this was yet another state fee of some sort that I needed to pay. But the more I read it I thought What am I paying for by filling out this form. Its not asking me for anymore information than i just gave them less than 6 months ago. So I looked up C.P.S and found your this article. Thank You because i probably would have paid it before the deadline date just to be safe. (“Just to be safe” that makes sense)

Mitchell says:

Oh man, this article just saved us from paying them as well. Thank you so much.

Eric says:

I received one of these today and it wasn’t adding up. I already have a copy of my short term certificate and didn’t understand why I would have to pay again. After researching, it became clear it was a scam and then stumbling upon this just confirmed my suspicions. Very misleading, but don’t send these people anything

Vance Green says:

I received a letter from those con artists today. I wrote a nice Jersey salute in large sharpie marker and put it back in their envelope to be returned with a warning to never send their crap solicitation to me again.

Anonymous says:

I too got a letter today and asking to pay $114.50 . Thanks for the heads up… I just put it in recycle bin.

Sam says:

Same here and 9 was about to do it.

Anonymous says:

I also received this letter from 1977 North Olden Avenue #553, Trenton, NJ 08618 requesting for the same amount of $114.50. The first red flag for me was the same paragraph in small font stating, “NJ Certificate Service is not affiliated with any govt or state agency and this notice is a solicitation for your business ”. The second red flag for me was the misspelling of “copy” to “coy”, “New Jersey Certificate will mail a hard coy of your Certificate of Good Standing to your business address.” If you were to google ANYTHING on this form, especially the small print, it all points to the same source of this “document” without a doubt being a scam. Sad, sad, sad.

Joe says:

It is a SCAM. I’ve received this notice 3 years in a row now in NJ – I shred this, and file online – it’s not that hard.

Derrick says:

Just got one of these asking for $160 for an annual report. I looked it up on the NJ web site and not only is it $75 to file, I don’t have to file for another 4 months. Glad I came across this!

rodney says:

they updated their address as per your blog above to Trenton, NJ! you helped them out a bit! 🙂 I just received one of these scam letters today, went to log into the online NJ Business Services and there it tells me my filing is not due till Sept! they are really smart actually because they send this fraudulent form out about 6 months before your actual filing deadline giving them plenty of time to perform their ‘service’

Rod says:

they updated their address as per your blog above to Trenton, NJ! you helped them out a bit! 🙂 I just received one of these scam letters today, went to log into the online NJ Business Services and there it tells me my filing is not due till Sept! they are really smart actually because they send this fraudulent form out about 6 months before your actual filing deadline giving them plenty of time to perform their ‘service’

Chirag says:

I received this too. I tore it after reading this. Thank you for posting this.

Donna Pizzigoni says:

I received a notice for $160.00 as well. Thank goodness I check online for filing with the state of NJ. They should be arrested for fraud!

Lori says:

I get one of these CPS notices every year. This is not a scam in the traditional sense because they are ostensibly performing a service by filing your Annual Report (which you can easily do yourself). What annoys me is that they create a false sense of urgency, by stating that I have until March 26 to return the form. I usually receive the official state Annual Report notice in early April with a June 30th deadline. So if people fall for the CPS lie, they will have sent in their money before ever receiving the official state correspondence.

MARK T Romain says:

i sent them monopoly money with some kind comments on it

Gerald W. LaCrosse says:

Thanks for for the laugh! That’s what I’m going to do and I think I’ll add a “Get of Jail” card to boot. My notice came from a shady company called NJ Certificate Service located at 1977 North Olden Avenue #552, in Trenton. All I can say is caveat emptor!

Jason Burgess says:

Thanks, you helped me not get scammed. These guys should be ashamed with themselves. New LLC’s often known their craft and have to learn about these kinds of scammers the hard way.

Kecia says:

I received one today and automatically knew it was suspicious. Did a search and came across your article. Thanks for confirming, as I was not going to send them money any way.

Glenn Douglass says:

Reading comments as I just received similar notice with all the NJ Statues listed that if you don’t file then you could be fined. I called the number and asked them why I received this notice. Of course they were defending it as an offer to assist. I advised I was offended as a Business owner by the notice and requested to be removed. from their site. I also advised that I was reporting this to State Agency and they were quick to say good by and have a good day. They also advised about info at bottom of letter that says they are not the government agency and not providing legal advice. I guess they think this is their disclosure. Best part is I file my Annual Reports

grateful says:

thanks for posting this. I had to double check online if this letter I got requesting for $114.50 was a scam and it totally is. Thanks for helping me confirm this feeling I had because I bought mine at the same time I formed the company…and this got me confused because the title of the document I bought at the state Gov Website stated: Short Form Standing certificate, which is the same as certificate of good standing. Ok thanks so much.

Donna says:

While a rip-off, pocketing the difference, do they actually file on your behalf or do they walk away with the entire $160 check and your bank account info to boot? They need to be reported to the authorities and taken down if they are not providing any type of service.

Lesley Howell says:

Thank you, I went to the NJgov page and notice its only $50 dollars, then I came across this article. Thanks for giving us a heads up!

Shawn says:

I just received one of those today, right in the garbage it went.

Bennett Werner, M.D. says:

Thanks so much for posting this. It seemed suspicious, so I Googled it, and your article came up. That is extremely helpful! Many thanks!

Delilah says:

Thank you for your article & explanations! Right before heading to the bank, I just wanted to make sure that this is not a scam, your article stopped me!

Maureen Gibbs says:

Thanks for sharing this I almost fell for it!!!!

Carla says:

How can one report them?

MickiB says:

I got my new notice today, every year like clock work they try to scam monies. Why doesn’t the police do something about them

Stephan says:

definitely wasted the money, didnt get anything and now im here. wtf

Lynne says:

Scammers. Its buried in the fine print of their letter “CPS is not a government agency and is a private entity” SO they charge $160 to help you process something that you can do for $60 in about ten minutes.

Valentina says:

I got annual report filing from them. What a crooks. It cost $75 and they ask $160 and it looks so official!

B2 says:

Got the same. It didn’t make sense to be charged again when the official NJ site already said I was already good to go. Good i found this site.

LT says:

Thank you for the info. I got a mail from NJ Certificate Service with address in Trenton,NJ asking for $114.50. It got all the things you’ve mentioned. There’s a paragraph in small font stating” NJ Certificate Service is not affiliated with any govt or state agency and this notice is a solicitation for your business ” What a nerve!

Jon says:

Received the same NJ Certificate Service ( 1977 North Olden Avenue #552, Trenton NJ 08618 ) scam today.

Lorna says:

This is a total scam we have to put it out so that all LLC businesses are aware that this company that is illegitimate and ripping people off are non-existent the address that they put on there is a UPS store everybody has to file with the better business bureau and we all have to get together and close these people down imagine the number of people who have already paid the $114 it’s a shame let’s do something about it

Andres says:

I recently incorporated an LLC in NJ and received the same letter with a “RESPOND BY 7/15/20” and was about to fill out the form and send the $114 until I looked more closely at the notice. Also after reading this page and confirmed my suspicion. Thanks to all for commenting here.

Claudrene says:

I received this letter today supposably from New Jersey certificate service. I called the number that was on the paper and I spoke with Miah I explained to her that there was a date to respond by 7/8/20. She told me don’t worry about the date so my eyebrows raised up thank you for this information they wanted me to send them $114 thank you just saved me a wasting my money on a company that’s a scam

mark landy says:

Same thing – been getting these for years – always throws me off because their urgent deadline is 6 months ahead of my renewal. Id love to know how they continue to operate. Where would you even file a report against them ? and Who has the time – aha – I think I discovered the business model….

VarArAr, LLC. says:

I received this and your information saved me, thank you

Jessica says:

I just received the same letter. Thank goodness I’ve started other businesses because I almost got taken for the money. The thing that provided a red flag for me was that they had a few typos and I didn’t think the government would send something out without proofreading it. Thank you for posting this!!! It’s much appreciated.

Yessica says:

You are right I received the same document . the bad side is that all our information is public and bad people can scam us . thank you because I worries that I have to pay . but then I remember I already did it ! please dont fall for this

Nicole says:

THANK YOU! I received a letter from “NJ Certificate Service” with a Trenton address requesting check or money order for $114.50. What got me was the line that says “NJ Certificate Service is not affiliated with any government or state agency and this notice is a solicitation for your business” smack in the middle of all their other small print nonsense. Sheisty!!

Michelle says:

Got the same letter today saying the Business Entity Standing Certificate Fee is $114.50. Thank you for posting this article and thank you to all the others who commented saying they also got the letter. Needless to say this bogus company is not getting my hard earned money and I hope someone shuts them down.

Gene says:

Great post, I just received a version of this yesterday, they wanted $160. I have been filing my annual report for more than 10 years and knew that it was $50 in NJ and due by the end of March each year.
This is an obvious scam, do not call them or give them any information. Always check with your state treasury if you are unsure of any mail or email solicitations. Thank you all for the heads up

Dodge says:

Just got this form letter/bill myself asking for $114.50. I’m glad I read the fine print and saw the sentence that mentioned they aren’t affiliated with and government agency. This post was the first one that came up and I’m felling better that I read it.

Carole says:

omg. I’m sooo glad i found this post. I just got the same letter asking for $114.50. I also got a letter saying i had to pay $126 i think (letter at home) for an employment poster. that they can fine me in “excess of $7000” plus other fines if its not properly displayed. I have NO employees. I make hairbands for kids that i’ll be selling at craft shows. I’m going to check that letter today to make sure it’s real. I tried to do the right thing when i registered and now it’s like we have a target on our backs!!

Kathleen Morgante says:

Same here- unbelievable. They push a quick return so people don’t sit on it and review. I received a second notice and believe the ‘not an official government agency’ text was minimized this go around, and the new return date added. Scammers who get by because they indirectly push new business owners into gaining a valid government form which bring cash to the state, but more cash this middle man. Thanks for this post, very much appreciated.

Geo Sabso says:

Just got it too. Three days after registration of the new entity, they want $140 for the certificate of good standing. No disclaimers, all presented for an “official letter”. Wonder where i can forward it quickly so somebody will be nuked for that, to stop such practices from other “businesses”

bart says:

Just got a similar very official looking notice for my new business from “NJ Certificate Service” $114.50 as others have stated in this post. The Toll-Free number does not even exist. Is the Better Business Bureau not on top of these things? Is it worth filing a complaint?

Eric Davis says:

Great post, I just received a version of this yesterday, they wanted $160. I have been filing my annual report for more than 10 years and knew that it was $50 in NJ and due by the end of March each year.
This is an obvious scam, do not call them or give them any information. Always check with your state treasury if you are unsure of any mail or email solicitations.

JOHN W COLEMAN says:

Yes, Thank you for the post. I Just registered my LLC and within 2 weeks I received this same letter. This one “charging” 114.50.
It does have the look of an official NJ government request.

Ken says:

Thank you for your post. I just received a version of this letter as well. Appreciate the well written post detailing the scam

Gary says:

The guy behind this company is a totally scammer! the business ‘NJ Certificate Service’ doesn’t exist in NJ secretary state search, note that there is no entity type at the end such as LLC or Inc. The website doesn’t not exist, certificatefillingservice.com. Also the address is fake too, this guy needs to be prosecuted a big time!

For anyone who has received their ‘Certificate of Good Standing Quest Form’, please report it to FBI!!! Take this scumbag to prison for some ‘punk time’

Anonymous says:

I received two notices – one for a certificate of good standing for 98.99 on the first mailing (company register August 2015) as well as another solicitation for labor compliance documents for $84 (the return envelop for a PO box in Florida!)

Company registrants BEWARE!

Anonymous says:

this is posted on the http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/revenue/alert_solicitation.shtml
Alert Concerning Solicitation to New Jersey Businesses:
The Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services is alerting all New Jersey businesses to be aware of mailings concerning a “2014 Certificate of Good Standing Request Form.” Certain private companies are sending the mailings, which solicit a fee of $98.99 in return for obtaining a New Jersey Certificate of Good Standing and corporate document templates. Businesses should be aware that the State of New Jersey does not require this form to be purchased and should not be confused by the official appearance of the mailings. They are not connected with the State of New Jersey’s business entity Standing Certificates process, and the State has no affiliation with the sender.

Anonymous says:

I got this same form in the mail yesturday but in the amount of $98.99. i must me getting wiser because i really wanted to check the web and see who this was exactly. thank you for your post, i will make sure i check any documents that come my way!

Anonymous says:

thank you for your article i just received on my self and i am a student and know looks like i own a trucking company. Any action taken organist those people ?? Thank you

Anonymous says:

Excellent article. I’d be curious to know whether New Jersey has any penalties for people or companies that appropriate State imagery (in this case, the State Treasurer’s seal) to make their communications appear more legitimate.