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Scams Targeting Businesses and Institutions


Bogus Yellow Page Ads and Directories

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 telephone directories.

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 THIS OFFER.

Before you buy advertising space through a mail solicitation or pay an "invoice," take the following steps:

blue bullet point Check out the company and its publication. Call your local Yellow Pages publisher to see if it is affiliated with the soliciting company.
blue bullet point Ask the publisher for written information about where and to who the directory is distributed.

Federal Trade Commission v. Ambus Registry, Inc. et al.
The Federal Trade Commission announced the filing of a complaint against the defendants and entry of a stipulated preliminary injunction. The complaint alleges that the defendants trained their telemarketers to use deceptive sales tactics to convince U.S. businesses that someone in their company had authorized its listing in the directory, as well as the purchase of the directory itself. The defendants, all based in Calgary, Canada, allegedly billed the businesses and, despite a supposed trial period, systematically rejected requests for a full refund.

Federal 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 Philanthropy."

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