HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — About two weeks after Takeria Brown registered her new business online with the Pa Department of State she received a letter in the mail.

“It was from Pa Certificate Services,” said Takeria Brown, business owner.

The letter congratulated her on registering her new business and said she had one step left to get her “Pa Certificate of Good Standing.” According to the letter, the certificate is issued by the Secretary of State and could be required for loans, to renew business licenses, or for tax purposes. She just needed to pay $87.25.

The letter Brown received in the mail from “Pa Certificate Services”

“I thought this was something I needed so I called [the phone number in the letter] to ask them what kind of certificate is this and a couple of other questions I had,” said Brown. “The lady was getting upset with me for just asking simple questions. She’s like well if you don’t want it just don’t worry about it and hangs up on me. I wanted to dig a little further.”

Brown called the Pa Department of State directly and asked if she needed to pay for a “Pa Certificate of Good Standing”.

“They said that place has been ripping people off for a while and it’s a scam,” said Brown.

The PA Department of State told the ABC27 investigators it was made aware of this scam in May 2020 and posted a warning on its webpage.

The warning states, “There is no company registered to do business in Pennsylvania by the name of “PA Certificate Services. The address used by this company is that of a UPS store located in Harrisburg and the phone number on the mailing (1-855-211-9705) goes to a call center located outside of Pennsylvania.

The mailing contains some incorrect and overbroad information. The Pennsylvania Department of State does not issue “Certificates of Good Standing.” Instead, Pennsylvania law permits “Subsistence Certificates” to be issued to domestic filing associations and “Certificates of Registration” for a registered foreign association. The cost of such certificates obtained directly from the Department of State is $40 and they are generally available by email within two hours of ordering online. “

The department does not know how many people have fallen victim to the scam.

Here is what we do know: last year 89,331 businesses registered with the Department of State. Under the law, that information is public and available online. The database includes the addresses of the businesses.

The scammers can use that information to send out fake letters.

If just one thousand people fell for the scam the criminals walk away with $87,250.

If 5% of the registered businesses paid the fake fee, which would be 4,466 businesses statewide, the scammers would make $389,658.

“This isn’t right. It is not right at all,” said Brown.

The Pa Attorney General’s office has received 5 complaints about this scam. It would not confirm or deny if it is currently investigating the scam.

If you believe you have fallen victim to this scam the Attorney General suggests filing a complaint with its Bureau of Consumer Protection to assist in getting a refund.