Charleston, W.Va. – The WV Secretary of State’s Office has received reports of West Virginia businesses receiving solicitations in the mail from a third-party vendor offering to assist with obtaining a copy of their “Certificate of Existence.” While third-party business services assistance is not illegal, this solicitation has misled many businesses. In West Virginia, a Certificate of Existence is not required annually, and is needed only in limited circumstances.
For businesses that do require a copy of their Certificate of Existence, one can easily be requested for $10 through the WV One Stop Business Portal at Business4WV.gov. Reports indicate that for the same service, third-party solicitors are requesting more than eight times the regular statutory cost at $85.
Before agreeing to such services, WV Secretary of State Mac Warner encourages businesses to know their options and consider the dangers of sharing sensitive information. Warner also encourages business owners to consider obtaining the certificate themselves at a much lower cost. If the owners do decide to use the third-party services, they should confirm in advance that the third-party company providing the service is properly registered with the WV Secretary of State's office and authorized to do business in the state.
"This new solicitation is the second known type of misleading solicitation that has come to our attention," Secretary Warner said. "For the past several years, third-party vendors have mailed similar offers to business owners seeking to assist with filing annual reports. Today, it's very easy and much less expensive to do it yourself," Warner said.
During the 2022 Regular Legislative Session, Secretary Warner supported SB 96, which would have increased transparency requirements and added penalties for certain unsolicited third-party service offers that violate the law. Although the bill didn’t pass, the Secretary will ask the legislature to consider the legislation again in 2023.
For more information or assistance, please contact the WVSOS Business & Licensing Division at 304-558-8000.