Scammers pose as Secretary of State’s office

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – It starts with a realistic-sounding phone call or an official-looking email, but it quickly can become a financial nightmare.

It can happen to anyone.  Just ask Barbara Corcoran, a well-known judge on the popular show ‘Shark Tank,’ who was scammed out of $400,000.

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Now it’s happening in Kentucky where scammers are impersonating the Secretary of State’s Office.

As part of a national effort to raise awareness, state and federal agencies have declared March 5 as ‘Slam the Scam Day.”

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael G. Adams warns consumers to be vigilant if they get a letter claiming to be from his office.

“My Office has just received reports from the Office of the Attorney General about an ongoing scam that appears to be soliciting businesses to obtain a ‘Certificate of Status’ to certify their Kentucky businesses are in existence,” Adams said.

The fraudulent mailing uses envelopes that appear to be from the Kentucky Department of Revenue. The letter offers a “Certificate of Status” that “bears the official seal of the Kentucky Secretary of State” for a fee of $77.25.

There is no such thing as a “Certificate of Status,” the state said.

“Our office would never solicit a business to purchase documents. Individuals and businesses can request corporate documents such as a Certificate of Existence or Certificate of Authorization from our website using our official form for only $10.00. However, most business records and data can be readily obtained through our online business search where you can verify the status of a company without any charge, whatsoever,” Adams explained

And it’s not just the mail being used by scammers.

Agencies remind consumers, especially the elderly, that it is easy for scammers to fake telephone numbers by using voice over internet service providers to make the call look more genuine. These scams are known as government imposter scam). Scammers use social engineering tradecraft  to gain trust and then con unwary victims out of money or information.

The “Slam the Scam Day” is meant to help consumers build awareness of how these government agencies communicate and to recognize red flags.

According to the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, “these pervasive scams in which callers pretend to be government employees to mislead victims have become a scourge on the American public.”

The Federal Trade Commission recently reported victims lost nearly $153 million to government imposter scams last year.

Social Security-related scams in particular have skyrocketed over the past year to become the most-reported type of consumer fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration.”