(WTTV/WXIN) — The Better Business Bureau is sending out an alert about the latest government impersonation scam.

This one claims to be cracking down on financial crimes, but the scammers are actually trying to commit them. The Corporate Transparency Act was passed in 2021 to fight things like money laundering, tax fraud and other financial crimes. It takes effect this January and scammers are ahead of the game.

According to the Small Business Administration, more than 80% of small businesses in the U.S. have no employees listed. These so-called “anonymous” companies are often used for fraud.  Starting in January, under the Corporate Transparency Act, many companies around the nation will have to report clear information about who actually owns and controls the business.

However, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network currently has an alert at the top of its website warning of “fraudulent attempts to solicit information from individuals and entities who may be subject to reporting requirements under the Corporate Transparency Act.”

According to the BBB, companies are receiving an official-looking letter from the “United States Business Regulations Department, Corporate Transparency Act Division, Process and Filing Center.”

To add to the realism, the letter is specifically addressed to that business or person because the scammers are using personal information collected from data breaches. The letters also have seals and watermarks that appear authentic.

The letter says you have reporting obligations under the Corporate Transparency Act and you must report ownership information to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.  Then it gives you a web address or QR code that takes you to a fake website designed to install malware or steal more information.

To avoid this and other similar scams, the BBB lists these recommendations:

  • Verify correspondence with government agencies. If you receive a piece of mail or a call that seems suspicious, take a step back and ensure it’s legitimate before taking action. Call the government office directly, using the official phone number, to verify the communications are real.
  • Don’t engage with scammers.  As soon as you know you are dealing with a scammer, cease communication. Stop answering calls, letters, or emails, and block any numbers that have called you about the scam. 
  • Report government impostor scams to the FBI.  Help the Federal Bureau of Investigation catch scammers by reporting your experience to ic3.gov