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State investigating possible mailer scam

The state of New Hampshire is investigating a Michigan-based company it suspects tried to scam thousands of business owners by soliciting money from them through government-like mailers.

Operating in the state under the alias Corporate Records Service, the company, Mandatory Poster Agency Inc., distributed approximately 5,000 such mailers to New Hampshire businesses earlier this year, said Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti, who prosecutes consumer protection cases and is heading the investigation. The documents, citing a nonexistent “annual minutes requirement,” ask owners to submit information about their businesses and pay a fee of $125 by a specified date.

In exchange, Boffetti said, owners receive a three-ring binder and a few sheets of paper reciting the information they provided.

“If you want to waste 125 bucks, do this,” Boffetti said.

At least 12 to 15 businesses have purchased the service, said Emily Rice, an attorney representing Mandatory Poster Agency.

Though the mailer indicates it isn’t a government document, it also never references Mandatory Poster Agency or provides a contact number. The return address is a mailbox at the UPS Store on South Main Street.

The state has been investigating the solicitations since they began early this year, Boffetti said, and it has received about 25 complaints from business owners who were immediately suspicious of the mailers.

In February, the attorney general’s office warned businesses about the campaign, insisting the documents were not government issued. In a press release, officials questioned the timing of the solicitations, noting they appear “designed to coincide with the due date of required annual return filings for business entities with the Secretary of State’s Office.”

Mandatory Poster Agency has since provided the state with several details about its operations, including how it handles consumer complaints, how many lawsuits have been filed against it in recent years and whether other states had pending civil or criminal enforcement actions against them. But the company has refused to disclose its customer list, arguing it’s excused from requirements involving “consumer goods” because its product involves a transaction between businesses – a claim Boffetti disputes.

Boffetti wants access to the list to ask owners whether they thought it was a required government fee.

The state has not filed formal charges against the company. But in a court hearing yesterday, Boffetti called the campaign “deceptive” and “unfair,” and he suggested the company may have violated the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act.

“You look at the totality of it and it raises issues, is all we’re saying,” he said after the hearing.

This is not the first time Mandatory Poster Agency has been the subject of a state investigation for alleged scams. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the company has paid more than $100,000 in the past seven years to settle disputes over similar behavior in at least 18 states. But it has also earned about $7 million through the most recent endeavor alone, said Boffetti.

“That’s a pretty good return for sending out basically a product that has no value,” he said.

The company is not currently soliciting, Boffetti said.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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