It’s hard enough to be a start-up or up & coming business and keeping your expenses down. Now one particular scheme that is growing at a rapid rate involves the nationally renown business directory, Yellow Book, formerly known as Yellow Pages.
Here’s how it works:
Someone calls claiming to be a representative from yellowpages.com. The intent of their call is to verify an order that was previously placed. They purposely seek out new workers or anyone uninformed enough to give up the information they seek. Believing that the order was legitimately placed, the employee willingly gives up details such as an address, phone number and other information. They make the biggest mistake by stating that they understand what the service is how much the charge will be.
Some time after, the representative calls again. They now state that the invoice is past due and needs to be paid in its entirety. From there, the scam artist gets tactical. He informs the manager that there will be stiff penalties for not making payment. They may be threatened with legal fees or collection agencies, being led to believe that the business’s credit score will be effected by the ordeal. Depending on the reaction from management, the caller may demand a partial payment and follow-up with a letter featuring the name “Yellow Pages” and bearing the familiar “walking fingers” logo. Federal copyright and trademark laws protect neither the name nor logo.
Months may pass when a different rep who is a bit more polite. Casually, brings up an invoice and explains that the account needs to be paid. Now they’re willing to accept anywhere from $100 to $200 less than before. After asking for proof of the order, the representative states that the order was securely confirmed via telephone.
They’ll take whatever they can get. The scheme is so methodical and has follow-up plans for anyone who was willing to follow along.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the companies operating from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, sent unsolicited faxes to churches, doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices and small retailers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and possibly elsewhere. The companies operated under names that included Yellow Page Marketing B.V., Yellow Page B.V., Yellow Page (Netherlands) B.V. Yellow Publishing Ltd. and Yellow Data Services Ltd. among others.
The court ordered the companies to repay the money fraudulently obtained tothe FTC to the tune of $10,000,000; which will be distributed to affected consumers. The court also banned the companies from selling or trying to sellInternet directories.
Your business should consider taking the following precautions if you receive a piece of mail and are unsure of how to respond:
- Determine whether the mail you have received is a solicitation or a bill/invoice.The United States Postal Service (U.S.P.S) requires a disclaimer if it is a solicitation. Read it carefully.
- Request information from the publisher, including previous copies of their directory, distribution figures and methods, and where the publisher primarily distributes their directory.
- Check with your local Yellow Pages publisher to see if they are affiliated with the solicitor.
- Check with state consumer protection officials for prior complaints against the solicitor.