If you have a Florida Corporation or LLC, you need to read the following article very closely. This is a true story of an insurance agency owner that discovered that someone went to the Florida Corporation website, changed the names of officers and proceeded to open accounts in the company name. Your Corporate information is not safe.
“Insurance agencies should be aware of recent criminal activity involving individuals hijacking corporate identities for the purpose of obtaining credit.
Just last week, I received the following email from an FAIA member:
“The innovation and effort of criminals never ceases to amaze me. Today we were contacted by a technology vendor to confirm a new account that had been opened in the name of our agency. Apparently someone went to the website www.sunbiz.org and changed the officers and the address of one of my corporate entities to show their name and address as a corporate officer. They were polite enough to leave me as the registered agent, as I can only guess that they didn’t want to be served with the litigation that will surely come! They then went on to open accounts in the name of my company, and anyone verifying the application could simply go to www.sunbiz.org and see that yes, this person is in fact the president of the company.
We contacted the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations and we were told that ANYONE can access the website and make these changes by simply paying a fee. To add insult to injury we were required to pay a fee to change it back to reflect the correct officers! The State says they can’t do anything about it. Apparently any corporation can be hijacked. This is corporate identity theft. Can it really be this easy to steal our most valuable business asset, our good name?”
I too was shocked that this type of corporate identity theft is so simple. I personally visited www.sunbiz.org and verified that anyone can file an amended annual report as long as a corporate document number is entered (which is readily available on that website by initiating a corporate entity name search) and the appropriate fee is paid.
After a further inquiry with the Department of State, Division of Corporations, the FAIA member agency received the following response:
The Division of Corporations acts in a ministerial filing capacity only. We do not have statutory authority to regulate individual businesses nor do we have investigative capability. As such, all documents submitted and filed by our office are accepted at face value. Section 817.155, F.S., states “a person may not, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the Department of State, knowingly and willfully falsify or conceal a material fact, make any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation, or make or use any false document, knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084”. Any disputes or fraudulent filings must be resolved between the affected parties or in the courts. Documents may be filed to correct our records. Forms may be downloaded from our web site.
You should file a police report in your county. If this individual has your Social Security number (our office does not require or request SS#’s) I would suggest asking your financial institution for assistance in issuing a “Fraud Alert” with the credit bureaus.
You can also submit a “Statement of Fact” that we will make public record with this filing stating that the changes on (insert date) were made without your knowledge or consent. In the statement please also include your case number. There is no filing fee associated with the Statement of Fact.
Keep in mind whatever you send will be a public record so please ask to redact any information you do not want posted such as your email address or phone number.
Law enforcement will need the following information:
The Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations uses a third party vendor (FIS PayDirect Solutions) to process credit card payments made to this office. They capture and collect the card/payment information, verify it, process it, and then send us payment 24 to 48 hours later. You’ll need to contact them directly for assistance; I do know that they will require a subpoena from the courts to release any credit card data they have collected.
The subpoena will need to be sent here:
Link2Gov Corp c/o CT Corporation System1200 South Pine Island Road Plantation FL 33324
In the subpoena provide them with the following receipt number: xxxxxxx
Unbelievable! Moral of the story: you may want to occasionally check your agency’s corporate information on www.sunbiz.org to ensure you have not become a victim of corporate identity theft!”
Posted by Laura Pearce on Feb 15th, 2016 FAIA Community blog
Laura’s Legal Brief of the Week: Corporate Identity Theft – Beware, Your Agency Could be a Target!