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Fake documents trick business owners

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DENVER, Colo. – They arrive in the mail looking like official government documents, but looks can be deceiving.  It's the heart of a scam that can happen anywhere.  In one case, forms claiming to be from the Colorado Corporate Compliance Office looked authentic to Scott Harris.

"As a small business, I get an awful lot of these from the state and federal government. I didn't really give it a thought. I filled it out and sent it in," he admitted.

Harris runs a small consulting firm and the paperwork looked to be real.

"They had the name of the company, the state we incorporated, things like that," he said.

But he learned the whole thing is a scam that's gaining ground, and specifically targeting people starting their own businesses.

"It's asking for some kind of periodic report and what they are offering is some kind of service to provide documents to file with the state that aren't even really required," explained U.S. Postal Inspector Jojan Henderson.

In this case, Harris never actually sent the fee in, but hundreds of others did. Inspectors say if you own a small business, do your homework.

"If it's not a compliance issue you are familiar with, there will certainly be an email address or phone number that you can contact to insure it is something," said Harris.

"Most states have very helpful websites. You can call them and see if it is a legitimate set-up," added Henderson.

Inspectors recommend you always check with your state's attorney general or your local Better Business Bureau to see if the mailing you've received is legit.