Roanoke, VA (July, 16, 2013) The Lebanon, VA consumer could not believe her ears. The voice on the recording authorizing a “Yellow Pages” listing was in fact hers. She knew she hadn’t authorized any such payment, yet there was her voice clear as day. With her boss questioning her involvement with the invoice, she began to worry she might lose her job over the $676 bill. Thankfully she called the BBB before sending in any payment and discovered they had been the target of a common nationwide scam.
The BBB Serving Western VA is warning businesses about an old scam using a new name. Small businesses across the country are receiving bogus invoices for “Yellow Page” listings that were never authorized from Local Business Yellowpages out of Miami, FL. These scammers are in no way connected to the nationally recognized Yellow Page directory. In order to appear legitimate, these scammers have been making calls to local businesses, asking rudimentary yes and no questions, and then recording the phone conversations. The yes or no statements are then edited into a fraudulent phone agreement for the authorization and ordering of phony or obscure business listings. Months later the targeted business receives an invoice claiming they are 120 days past due. When a business calls to refute the charges, they are played the doctored audio conversation featuring an employee’s voice authorizing the charges.
“I was shocked to hear my own voice on the phone. I vaguely remembered speaking with a company months before to verify our location, but I had no idea I was being recorded,” the consumer told the BBB.
The invoices look official and contain the recognizable “walking fingers” logo and the name “Yellow Pages.” They often include the consumer’s phone number, an account representative’s name, and a request to fix any incorrect information. The invoices often feature threats that the debt will be turned over to a collection agency or credit reporting agency if no payment is received.
“It is important that business train their employees to recognize possible phone directory scams,” said Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western VA. “It is vitally important to do a thorough audit of any invoice billed to your business.”
The BBB reported on this same scam in October 2012 when scammers were using the name US Public Yellowpages out of Nevada. This newest incarnation out of Miami, Florida, goes by the name Local Business Yellow Pages. The company first came to the attention of the BBB in Southeast Florida and the Caribbean in June of this year. Since June 20, 2013 the office has received 79 complaints on the company.
Here are some red flags to watch for:
• A caller claims to be a business partner or advertising affiliate, yet asks to confirm the name and address of the company that he or she is calling
• A caller claims to be a business partner or advertising affiliate and wishes to confirm, re-enroll, or renew a contract or business deal over the phone. No confirmation or any business deal should be conducted over the phone. Any business in the official capacity should be conducted in writing.
• If a solicitation occurs over the phone, the employee should not encourage, agree, or disagree to any product or service unless they have explicit permission to do so. All marketing or advertising materials should be sent in writing to the appropriate department.
• If a solicitation occurs over the internet or via email and the company is not one you recognize, make sure not to click on any of the links, confirmation buttons, or renewal buttons. By doing so you may be agreeing to receive or subscribe to an undesired service or listing.
• When trying to identify the solicitor, make sure to verify that the address that they are claiming to be from is brick and mortar as a "suite" can easily be a PO Box or a mail forwarding company. The company's representatives may be concealing their true location and might not be found at the advertised address.
• If your company is a victim to a yellow pages scam or winds up receiving an invoice for a service or product that was not authorized, send a certified letter to the business stating the advertisement was never authorized, the recording is not legitimate, and to cease and desist contact and billing immediately. Additionally, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org and the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.
• Start with Trust! Contact the BBB first by going to www.bbb.org or by calling (800) 533-5501
If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBB_WesternVA