Businesses and Institutions
Unscrupulous promoters are soliciting advertising for online,
alternative or non-existent business directories. Although these
directories appear to be legitimate Yellow Pages publications,
they are not distributed to the public, posted on the web, or promoted
as promised. As a result, the directories - if they exist at all
- offer no benefits to businesses that pay to advertise in them.
The solicitation to buy ad space may be designed to look like
an invoice and bear the "walking fingers" logo and the
Yellow Pages name.
Neither the name nor the logo is protected by federal copyright
or trademark registration. That's how fraudulent promoters are
able to lead businesses to believe they are affiliated with local
The $10 billion Yellow Pages industry has launched a coast-to-coast
program to counter pervasive, nationwide fraud that plays upon
the legitimacy of the second-most referenced book after the Bible.
According to one survey, nearly one-third of owners said their
businesses have received bills for Yellow Pages advertising they
never ordered. The Yellow Pages Publishers Association estimates
more than$550 million each year is being collected by con artists
soliciting Yellow Pages advertisers with bogus invoices for print
and online directories.
A t fraudulent seller may send you a bill for unordered classified
advertising soon after your ad runs in a legitimate publication
hoping you'll be confused and pay his bill instead of, or in addition
to, the one from the legitimate company.
The U.S. Postal Service requires solicitations that look like
invoices, bills or account statements to carry the following notice:
THIS IS NOT A BILL. THIS IS A SOLICITATION. YOU ARE UNDER
NO OBLIGATION TO PAY THE AMOUNT STATED ABOVE UNLESS YOU ACCEPT
Before you buy advertising space through a mail solicitation or
pay an "invoice," take the following steps:
||Check out the company and its publication.
Call your local Yellow Pages publisher to see if it is affiliated
with the soliciting company.
||Ask the publisher for written information
about where and to who the directory is distributed.
Trade Commission v. Clinton R. Greenwell
The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint alleging, among other
things, that the defendant, operating under a host of assumed names,
misrepresented that the businesses authorized the ads to be placed in
his publications, and therefore were obligated to pay for the ads, and
misrepresented that he was a member of, or associated with, a police
force or organization. This case was part of the fundraising fraud sweep "Phoney