3OYS uncovers scam that targets Arizona businesses

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Venita Renyer is an insurance agent, a job she's loved doing for the past 25 years.

"We do life insurance," Renyer said. " Last week we had a 59-year-old die. It was really nice to tell the lady that we have $150,000 in life insurance money for you and your family."

And when Renyer's company grew, she said it was important to incorporate her business. It's something many businesses do.

"Because of the tax advantages and the protection it gives you for your personal assets," Renyer said.

Incorporating involves registering your business information with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

But, Renyer thought it was kind of strange when her business received some official-looking documents in the mail telling her it was time to update her corporate information and updating that info was going to cost her $125.

"I said, I think this looks like a scam," Renyer said. "So I forwarded it over to Gary Harper so he could look into it."

It's a good thing she did because the documents are in fact a cleverly designed scam aimed at duping business owners like Renyer out of $125.

Despite looking authentic, the documents have nothing to do with the Arizona Corporation Commission at all.

"Well, it concerns me greatly and angry would be an appropriate word to use because this individual or group of individuals is trying to scam Arizonans," said Bob Stump, chairman of the Corporation Commission.

After 3 On Your Side brought the issue to the agency's attention, officials immediately issued a press release warning businesses around the state to not fall for the scheme.

3 On Your Side also went to the Phoenix address listed where businesses are supposed to send in their $125. I discovered it was a mailbox located inside a mail facility. Imagine, someone probably goes to the facility on a regular basis to simply pick up their envelopes full of checks.

It's not the first time something like this has happened.

"Several years ago, about $350,000 was scammed out of Arizona residents in a very similar scheme," Stump said.

Renyer said the scammers won't be getting $125 out of her and she hopes other businesses, large or small, don't fall for it either.

"Be very careful because you are giving a lot of sensitive information about your business to these people." she said.

Not to mention, businesses are also handing over $125 when they shouldn't be.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office has been made aware of the scam. When investigators do something, or if  the culprits are caught, 3 On Your Side will air an update.