About that “invoice” to renew your fictitious business name for $150. It’s either a “misleading solicitation” or a scam. Take your pick.

About a week ago I renewed the fictitious business name used for my publishing projects. Paid San Bernardino county $55. Only reason it took 20 minutes to prepare it is that the county revised the form since my last filing. Since I’m a cautious accountant, it was obviously necessary to read all the instructions just to make sure nothing changed.

Also received an invoice in the mail today that looks like it is from the Fictitious Business Name office reminding me the FBN is about to expire and the fee will be only $150.

Hmm. The form I just filed said the fee was $55.

If you look carefully, the outside envelope and “invoice” both contain one statement each saying this is not an official government request.

Sure looks like an official notice. Has a Sacramento address. Is labeled “FORM CA-5/2015” in the corner. Has the bold comments and CAPITAL LETTERS you would expect on a government form. Has a name that looks like what a government department would call some small office’s service center. Overall it sorta’ kinda’ looks like what you would expect a renewal notice from some government agency to look like.

It is actually a private company aiming to help inattentive businesses renew their FBN by charging a $110 extra fee. It is using what looks like a government form to do so.

If you wish to pay an extra hundred bucks, go ahead. You don’t have to though.

Actually, this outfit’s fee is down from the $370 I saw four years ago: Scam watch – you don’t have to pay someone $370 to help renew your fictitious business name.

When I complained about that outfit to the AG in 2011, I got a reply talking about the “misleading solicitation.” Methinks scam is a better word.

I got another FBN letter about a month ago. It was also a misleading solicitation. Threw it away. Wasn’t intending to write about it until another renewal “notice” arrived today.

Same thing applies for the SOI-100, which charities in California have to file every two years in the anniversary month of their incorporation. My previous comment: Scam watch – you don’t have to pay someone a bunch of money to file your SOI-100. If you want to, fine. But know you are paying a private company to do something you can take care of in a few minutes.

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