How To Find A Business Registration In Under A Minute

buildings_searchAs part of my stand against a serial cyber-harasser, I’ve been warning individuals and companies that she targets.  Her pattern, when it comes to companies, is to claim that her searches for business registrations came up blank.  She claims that this is proof that these companies are not licensed and, therefore, frauds.  These aren’t tiny companies, either, but some pretty big, even international, companies.

Her method appeared, to me, to be fatally flawed.  She was relying on the Better Business Bureau’s search tool.  The problem here is two-fold.  First of all, businesses don’t need to register with the BBB.  It’s voluntary.  Secondly, it isn’t a business license search.  It’s a business *review* search tool.  You can use this to find out if a business had complaints filed against it to the BBB, but you can’t use it to find every licensed business in the US.

As she claimed to be unable to find these registrations, I began to wonder.  Could I?  I pride myself on my Google-Fu and wondered just how long it would take me to find an organization’s business registration.  Once I was consistently able to find them, I figured I’d blog about my method.

For our examples, let’s take a few of the supposedly unregistered businesses: MomSelect, Bendon Publishing, and PictureIt Creations.  (I picked these at semi-random.  She’s targeted many more businesses than this.)

First, we need to visit the sites and find out in which state they are located.  Bendon’s Contact Us page mentions Ohio, PictureIt Creations’ contact number is in a 734 area code which is in Michigan.  MomSelect is a bit more complex as their web page mentions that they are part of BSM Media Inc.  Therefore, we should really look up BSM and not MomSelect.  BSM’s contact page lists Florida as their state.

Now that we have our states, we need to find each state’s business registration search website.  Luckily, I found a website called SecStates.com that listed all of the appropriate pages.  Some of them were outdated, though, so I tracked down the updated links and tested all of them.  Here’s the list:

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California
Colorado Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia Florida
Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana
Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine
Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi
Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire
New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota
Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Puerto Rico
Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas
Utah Vermont Virginia Virgin Islands Washington
West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming

 

NOTE: I couldn’t find a license search site for the District of Columbia or Virgin Islands. (EDIT: Thanks to usvirginislands and Sandra Foyt for finding the link for the US Virgin Islands.)

Now that we have the list, we just need to go to each state’s website to search for the businesses.  Let’s start with Bendon Publishing.  Searching gives two results: one (filed in 2001) that was canceled and a second (filed in 2003) that is active.  By the way, Bendon is listed as a “Foreign Corporation”.  At first, I thought this meant that they were based outside of the US.  However, all this means is that they are registered outside of Ohio.  (In this case, Delaware.)

Easy, right?  Let’s try PictureIt Creations now.  Searching Michigan’s database gives us this registration.  Ok, so we’re two for two now.  What about MomSelect / BSM Media?  Searching for “BSM Media” gives this result.  Three for three.

You can use this to find nearly any registered business in the United States.  Go ahead and give it a try.

Graphic derived from building and binocular clipart from OpenClipArt.org.

4 comments

  • Sara from Saving For Someday

    Great list of resources. But keep in mind that some companies may not show up because they use a Tradename or possibly their company name is not the same as their website or even posted on their site. Further, sole proprietorship organizations do not require registration and are legitimate businesses. Just because a business can’t be found in some database doesn’t mean it’s not ‘real’.

    Sadly trolls exist, and often aren’t very smart. They find data that supports their hypothesis and then proceed in their harassment, regardless of the truth.

    Too bad there is no legal cause of action for stupidity.

    • Good points. Thanks.

      As for legal cause of action, we’ve actually explored legal avenues (for harassment and/or libel). Sadly, the troll is in Canada and we’re in the US. International legal actions are very tricky to do so there really is no legal remedy.

  • Thanks! This was actually very helpful with some info I was trying to find, but was too lazy to do the research to locate. =}

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