Thursday, July 17 2014, 11:16 PM MDT
Yellow Page scammers targeted by FTC
(KUTV) Imagine being ordered to pay a bill, and threatened with collections, all for a product you never ordered and don't want.
It's happening every day to small businesses across Utah and the country. It all has to do with online 'Yellow Pages' listings. Companies are having their names added the listings, and then getting a bill, all without having any idea the ad even exists.
It's a flim-flam that usually begins with a misleading phone call – the caller trying to trick the person who answers into confirming the ad in a roundabout way.
An Orem business manager told Get Gephardt that he got a call asking if he wanted to cancel the ad. Since he had never signed up for such an ad, he agreed to cancel. He later received a cancelation notice along with a $480 bill. He did not pay.
A Draper dental hygienist told Get Gephardt she got a similar call, with a twist. She was asked to verify the dental office address. She did. Bill collectors later told the dentist that his hygienist had confirmed the ad, and demanded he pay $550. He didn't.
But not all businesses and employees notice the ruse in time. Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission said three Canadian companies, "bilked millions of dollars from small businesses, churches, nonprofits and local government agencies by charging them for unwanted listings."
According to the FTC, the three companies used a variety of collection tactics, including playing audio recordings that purportedly proved that the businesses' employees authorized the business directory listings.
The FTC took action Thursday, freezing assets of the companies and getting injunctions against them. The FTC is also asking a judge to make those companies pay victims back.
This is certainly not the end of this type of scam. There are countless other companies which operate the same way – and the product is not always yellow page listings.
Several years ago, here at KUTV, an Indiana light bulb company confirmed our station's address with the engineering department, then sent a huge bill to our station's accounting department. KUTV refused to pay and returned the bulbs.
If you get such a call or invoice, the FTC recommends simply hanging up the phone and then contacting them and filing a complaint.
By Matt Gephardt