May 31, 2012
New Twist on “Yellow Pages” Scam Has Some Companies Seeing Red
HARTFORD, May 31 -- Bogus representatives of so-called “Yellow Pages” directories continue to contact businesses in Connecticut and elsewhere, demanding payment for Yellow Page listings that were never authorized. Today, the Department of Consumer Protection reports that some scammers have even started to try intimidating their targets with claims that they have a company representative “on tape” authorizing the purchase of Yellow Page listings.
“We’ve seen a number of complaints recently and over the past year where employees have received invoices for un-ordered Yellow Pages listings, or have been called by a so-called company representative about an overdue bill,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said today. “When told that these services were never authorized or ordered, the bogus Yellow Pages representative states that they have a voice recording of a specific employee of the company authorizing the order.”
One woman wrote that she was asked by a representative of a “Yellow Pages” company to respond “yes” to numerous questions, merely as a contact person for her company, although she specifically said she could not authorize any services or payments. Her call was transferred between two “Yellow Pages” reps, who behaved impatiently with her on the phone until she agreed to say “yes” to the scripted questions she was asked. She made it clear to both reps that she was not the person to actually authorize payment, and that she could not do so. The call ended and the matter was dropped for several months, until she received a call from a third employee of that “Yellow Pages” company, who told her the bill was 120 days overdue, that he had a tape of her saying “yes” to authorize service, and that “it only matters what this little recording I have says; it’s admissible in court, and nothing else matters.”
“Some honest business employees are unnecessarily spending their time and energy to ward off threats of being taken to court for bogus “Yellow Pages” bills,” Rubenstein said. “Sadly, there may be some who pay up in order to stave off what they see as a potential lawsuit.”
Companies named in complaints include YellowPagesOnline.net in Fairfax, Virginia, Yellow Pages Local Directory, of Champlain, New York, and Public Yellow Pages of New York, New York. All three of these companies have “F” ratings with the Better Business Bureau.
“The Better Business Bureau lists 300 companies operating from more than a dozen states that call themselves “Yellow Pages,” Rubenstein said. “Business owners and employees need to be aware that scammers claiming to be collecting payments on Yellow Pages accounts may target you – don’t be intimidated or pressured into paying for something that you did not order.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some advice to help companies avoid being victimized:
Train your staff to spot this scam. Educate your employees about how this scam works. In addition to your regular receptionist, talk to everyone who may pick up the phone. Put a copy of this alert in employee mailboxes. Mention it in a staff meeting. Post it on the break room bulletin board or where employees clock in and out.
Inspect your invoices. Depending on the size and nature of your business, consider implementing a purchase order system to make sure you’re paying only legitimate expenses. At a minimum, designate a small group of employees with authority to approve purchases and pay the bills. Train your team to send all inquiries to them.
Compile a list of the companies you typically use for directory services, office supplies, and other recurring expenses. Encourage the people who pay the bills to develop a “show me” attitude when it comes to unexpected invoices from companies they’re not familiar with. Don’t pay for products or services you’re not sure you ordered.
Verify the services. Before paying, check the service out for free on the Better Business Bureau’s website at bbb.org.
File a complaint. If a scammer is sending you bogus bills, let the FTC know by filing a complaint at ftc.gov or calling 877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Your complaints help shape the FTC’s law enforcement agenda, so it’s important to sound off when you spot a scam. Concerned about business directory fraudsters’ threats to tarnish your credit if you don’t pay? Many will simply drop the matter — and may even provide a refund — if they know you’ve complained to the BBB and law enforcement.
You may also file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection, including as much information about the company as you can, and attach any invoices or correspondence you have received. Visit our website at ct.gov/dcp.
“We will provide copies of complaints to appropriate authorities in other states, and hopefully, eliminate these deceptive and intrusive schemes,” Rubenstein said. “The most important thing is not to give in to the intimidation and false claims, because when scam artists don’t see any payoff for their scheme, they tend to stop.”
Media Contact: Claudette Carveth