The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues to pull its hair out fighting scams based just North of the border. In the latest battle, the long-arm of the U.S. justice system nabbed three Montreal-based telemarketing operations that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from small businesses, churches, nonprofits and local government agencies by charging them for unwanted listings in online “yellow pages” directories.
National Business Advertising and Your Yellow Pages had their operations halted and assets frozen. A third firm: OnlineYellowPagesToday.com has temporarily halted pending court action lead by the FTC.
According to the FTC, the scamsters allegedly sent deceptive invoices to small businesses throughout the USA for unordered business directory listings. If the recipients disputed the invoices, the defendants used a variety of collection tactics, such as playing audio recordings that purportedly proved that the businesses’ employees authorized the business directory listings. The businesses report, however, that the recordings sounded as if they were doctored or merely reflected that an employee had confirmed or verified the business’s contact information in a previous telephone call without agreeing to new services. Many consumers paid the defendants only to avoid potentially damaging collection actions and to end the harassment.
The FTC says National Business Advertising, Nationwide Marketing Bureau, National Biz Ads, and Yellow Business Ads – used a variety of deceptive tactics to represent that consumers owed money for business directory listings and advertising services they never ordered, and in many cases, never received. The scam ring also pretended to be various debt collection companies, such as TransUnion Credit Bureau, Regional Debt Recovery, and RDR Collections. They even got some some consumers to pay, in amounts ranging from $200 to more than $1,500, by promising to stop contacting them and to close the accounts, but they kept billing them afterward.
Your Yellow Pages Inc., also d/b/a EBS Collections; Rapid Pages, also d/b/a Rapid Yellow Pages; and City Pages, also d/b/a City Yellow Pages and Online City Yellow Pages – used a variety of deceptive tactics to represent that consumers owed money for business directory listings they never ordered. They often cold-called small businesses or non-profits, and often falsely claimed that the consumers owed them money for the second year of a two-year contract, and that the consumers owed amounts ranging from $400 to more than $1,800.
Additionally, the FTC says OnlineYellowPagesToday.com, Target Marketing, and Oniks Media; and 7095333 Canada, also d/b/a USYellowPageDirectory.com and Oniks Media – typically contacted consumers under the guise of confirming contact information in a directory in which the small business or other organization already appeared. Subsequently, the scammers billed consumers $479.95 or more, using the walking fingers image often associated with local yellow page directories on invoices and other correspondence.
BEST ADVICE: Watch incoming business invoices closely and if you suspect foul play turn the scroundels in quickly to the FTC.
To learn more about directory scams, read the FTC’s Small Business Scams.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
Also, follow #SCAMTRAK on the CardTrak.com web site.