If you want to conduct your ministry or business using anything other than your legal name, you have to get a fictitious business name. This is also called a DBA, or “doing business as” name.
Let’s say you are on staff at Southside Community Church and are starting a major summer program as an outreach to the community. This would be a big, ongoing project. If you’re going to be collecting money and trying to reach out beyond your local congregation, you just might decide to run the program under the name Southside Summer Swim. If that is the case, you need to file for a fictitious business name with the county clerk’s office.
In San Bernardino County, all you have to do is file a one-page form with the County Clerk and pay them a mere 40 bucks. You also have to take out one of those tiny print ads in the legal section of the local newspaper, which will probably cost you another 80 bucks.
Every five years you have to renew with the County Clerk. That will take you the same one-page form and you send in another 40 bucks. If you filed before the five-year expiration, you don’t have to publish again.
I know this process because I have a fictitious business name for my publishing company.
Pretty simple, huh? I would guess that most counties in the country have similar requirements, with a similar form, and similar minimal fees.
Here comes the scam!
Someone in my local area is sending out letters with a name that sounds like a county agency and a solicitation that looks like a government form. They include a copy of the form you have to actually file with the county. If you fill in the form and send to them, they will not-so-graciously forward it to the County.
All this outfit charges to “help” you file your form is $40 for the county, $89 to publish the newspaper ad, $327 for their services, an extra $45.60 if you’re ‘late’ to respond to them. So for a mere $501.60, they will put the form you prepared into the mail to the county. For a bonus kicker, they sent the ad 45 days before expiration of the registration, so if someone replies quickly, the outfit doesn’t have to publish an ad so they keep your $89 and do nothing in return.
Watch out! There are lots of people who want to take your money.
I had been planning to post on this topic for a couple of weeks. Someone with a much bigger voice than me got a copy of the same letter. She was able to call the local paper and get a reporter’s interest.
See the newspaper article in the Daily Bulletin here: Officials warn business owners of fictitious business name scam
Good picture in the article of the letter and cover envelope. Check it out to see for yourself if it looks like a government notice.
I would make a wild guess that there are similar scams in many other counties. Watch out!