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CHARLESTON — Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office is issuing a notice to West Virginia business owners currently receiving solicitations from third-party entities offering to file a state-required annual report.

According to Warner, the solicitations are being mailed to the business owners may strike an appearance of an official piece of mail from his office if the fine print is not read.

“I can assure everyone that these solicitations are not from my office and not from the state of West Virginia,” Warner said in his notice. “We have modernized the business registration process in West Virginia so that nearly 99% of all businesses now file their annual report online. You do not have to hire an outside vendor to file your annual report.”

Warner says all currently registered West Virginia businesses can file their report online through his office’s easy-to-use “WV One Stop Business Portal” at Registered businesses may also contact the WV Secretary of State’s Business & Licensing Division at (304) 558-8000 for assistance.

The total cost to file an annual report online with the WV Secretary of State’s Office is $25. Some third-party vendors are charging as much as $125 to file the exact same information, according to Warner.

“Importantly, the 2022 Annual Report filing period begins on Jan. 1, 2022 and ends July 1, 2022,” Warner said in the notice.

Warner says he is encouraging all business owners to be wary of any suspicious solicitations by U.S. Mail or online requesting sensitive financial or personal information. He also advised to confirm that the company is properly registered to conduct business in the state of West Virginia before contracting for services from a third-party solicitor.

“If any business receives a suspicious solicitation from a non-government entity, please take care to research the third party and confirm it is a legitimate business,” he said.

The most recent solicitation reported to the Secretary of State’s Investigation Division is similar to another solicitation that was sent to thousands of businesses in 2018. Following those 2018 statewide mail solicitations, the Secretary of State’s Office required the third-party solicitor to return fees to more than 2,000 West Virginia businesses. The third-party services provider was also required to provide additional information to the public in any future solicitation that clearly notifies recipients that the third party is not associated with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Citizens are encouraged to report illegal or improper solicitations to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office by calling toll-free 877-FRAUD-WV.

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