Bill looks to protect business from scams

State Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, has introduced a bill designed to improve protections for Ohio businesses from fraud, theft and scams.

Rulli was joined at a news conference Tuesday by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers, who gave their support for Senate Bill 98.

“We’ve identified three areas of major concern that are causing great harm to entrepreneurs trying to run a legitimate business,” Rulli said. “We believe these simple but sensible reforms will provide highly effective solutions to problems we simply can’t let get out of hand. These reforms will further help Ohioans unleash their tremendous potential to succeed, realize the American Dream, and make our great state even greater.”

Rulli represents the 33rd Ohio Senate District, which encompasses Columbiana, Carroll and Mahoning counties.

The reforms, should they become law in Ohio, would address:

l Business identity theft: One out of every 10 people is a victim of identity theft, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Identity thieves are now targeting businesses at an alarming rate, with potentially disastrous consequences, Rulli said in a news release.

S.B. 98 would reduce the cost and time for victims to get resolutions, he said. It will allow individuals and businesses to report when a scammer has fraudulently used someone else’s address or personal information to form a new business, or has taken over a legitimate business filing in an attempt to leverage it for fraud.

The complaint would be referred to the Ohio Attorney General for investigation. If the Attorney General determines the business filing is fraudulent, then the Secretary of State may cancel the fraudulent filing and redact the victim’s information;

l Fraudulent business filings: Scammers are hijacking other people’s personal information to form fraudulent new businesses. These fraudulent filings often use a post office box or commercial mailbox, such as a UPS store, as their mailing address. Under current law, there is no clear path for victims to report these crimes and for these fraudulent practices to be investigated and stopped, Rulli explained.

S.B. 98 would establish a requirement to use the mailing address of the agent’s primary residence in Ohio or usual place of business. Significantly, that will allow process servers to physically serve documents to a registered agent. This bill will also reduce the ability to reinstate a cancelled business entity without proper authority. This is done by suspending the filing ability for a cancelled entity if it has been cancelled for at least two years;

l Deceptive mailings: Another scam on the rise targets Ohio businesses with misleading mailers imitating official government departments. They charge large amounts of money for government services that are usually provided free, or at a very low cost, Rulli stated.

These mailers include official-looking seals, look very similar to government forms, and imply a company may be in jeopardy if they fail to comply. Common solicitations include expedited filings, UCC statement request forms, annual reports, certificates of good standing, and employee identification numbers.

S.B. 98 would require information on solicitations sent to business owners that will make it perfectly clear that it is not coming from a government agency. Violating the section would be a violation of deceptive trade practices.



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