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Attorney General’s Office Shuts Down Websites Impersonating Government Sites


Websites impersonating the New York State Department of State have been shut down by the Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Letitia James reports her office has shut down two websites that were made to deceive viewers into believing they were on the state’s Division of Corporations site.

“These websites deceived hardworking New Yorkers who were simply trying to open up their own business and file the necessary paperwork to do so.”

Thomas Romano and his company, Steamin’ Weenie LLC, allowed users to file business documents with local, state, and federal entities; however, the prices charged for this service were much higher than the standard government fees. For example, Romano charges $135 for a certified copy of a certificate of incorporation while the state fee is $10.

The sites used government seals and logos to appear legitimate and did not state they were private organizations. One website even referred to itself as the “Corporation Services Division,” mimicking the Department of State’s “Division of Corporations.”

Besides being shut down, James secured $44,387 in penalties from both Romano and the company.

A side by side comparison of the legitimate and misleading websites. Provided

“Misleading consumers is not a smart business plan, it’s unethical and illegal,” said Attorney General James. “These websites deceived hardworking New Yorkers who were simply trying to open up their own business and file the necessary paperwork to do so. Scam artists may think they are savvy, but breaking state laws and conning New Yorkers will get you into hot water with my office. I encourage everyone to be vigilant and ensure the websites they are visiting to conduct government business are legitimate.”

“Impersonating the New York Department of State as a way of defrauding business owners out of their hard-earned money was not only deceptive, unfair, and misleading, it was illegal,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “Attorney General James shares the Department’s commitment to protecting New Yorkers and we thank her for her perseverance in holding these bad actors accountable.”

The Attorney General’s Office offers these tips to know whether the site you’re on is a legitimate government one:

  • Check the URL. Government websites typically utilize a ‘.gov’ domain name and a secure connection, which can be spotted when the URL begins with “https” instead of http, and/or the browser displays a padlock icon next to the URL.
  • Avoid selecting sponsored links. Typically, government websites will not appear as sponsored links after a web search.
  • Find the agency you’re looking for on the state’s main website. All the states’ agencies and services can be found on www.ny.gov. For New York City agencies and services, visit www.nyc.gov. Most localities will also house all their services and agencies on their main site.
  • Check the contact page. Legitimate websites have important information where web users can find how to reach a government agency, where to find that agency and social media links. The absence of a legitimate (or any) address and a working phone number should be a cause for concern.
  • Check the website’s privacy policy. Websites should have adequate information about privacy, terms, and conditions of use.
  • Review your costs before paying. If a service fee appears to be too high, make sure you are on a legitimate government website using the tips above before making a payment.
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