Businesses, churches and not-for-profit groups have long been targets for scammers posing as Yellow Page business directory companies. These scammers are able to confuse businesses into paying for nonexistent directory advertisements because legitimate directories, local phone companies and scammers may all use similar names and logos. Neither the words “Yellow Pages” nor the “walking fingers” logo are copyrighted.
The fraud can occur over the phone. A telemarketer will ask you to verify your company’s name, address, phone number and website for a current listing. The telemarketer may even record the call, alter it, and play it back later as proof of agreement.
Also, fake invoices may arrive by fax or mail, demanding hefty payments. The scammers have been known to send letters threatening a lawsuit for refusal to pay.
Many businesses pay to stop the harassment. But this payment just encourages the scammers to approach the company again with a new scam.
The scam also works for specialized directories, which may target exclusive clientele like country clubs, or local businesses or organizations such as eateries and youth sports teams. Scammers will promise exposure to these targeted groups, but the promise is bogus.
Be skeptical if you haven’t seen the specialized directory before. It may not exist. Be sure to get details of where, when and how the directory will be distributed. Follow up with the groups or businesses where the directories will be displayed or distributed before you commit.
The BBB offers the following precautions when dealing with business directory solicitations or invoices:
• Educate your employees about this type of scam.
• Funnel all business directory phone calls and invoices to one person or group of people who are vigilant in recognizing fake directory solicitations and invoices.
• Keep a list of all verified contracts with business directories.
• If an invoice seems fraudulent, contact the business to ask for documentation.
• Check out a business directory company before agreeing to terms and providing payment information by contacting the BBB at www.bbb.org or by calling (509) 455-4200.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor