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Yellow Pages invoice scam


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Facts for Business from the Federal Trade Commission

Yellow Pages Invoice Scams -- August 1992

Produced in cooperation with the Yellow Pages Publishers
Association and the United States Postal Inspection Service

Businesses across the country are receiving what appear to be
invoices for ad space in the familiar, locally distributed,
Yellow Pages directories. But, in fact, some of these "invoices"
are solicitations for listings in alternative business
directories that differ from the well-known Yellow Pages. These
alternative directories often are not widely distributed, or may
not be published at all. Businesses are being deceived into
paying for what they erroneously believe to be their usual Yellow
Pages ad.

What Causes the Confusion?

The familiar "walking fingers" logo and the name "Yellow Pages"
are not protected by any federal trademark registration or
copyright. Therefore, you may be led to believe that anyone who
uses the logo and the name is affiliated with the publisher that
distributes the telephone books and Yellow Pages directories to
all households and businesses in a particular geographic area.
There is no connection between publishers of alternative
directories and those of the well-known Yellow Pages.

Alternative directories differ significantly from the traditional
Yellow Pages directories primarily because of distribution.
Alternative business directories generally are not available or
distributed to the public. Therefore, they provide little, if
any, benefit to businesses who pay to advertise in them.

Characteristics of a Phony Yellow Pages Invoice

The solicitation from an alternative business directory may have
the appearance of an invoice. It may bear the "walking fingers"
logo and feature the name "Yellow Pages." It also may falsely
suggest that the publisher is affiliated with your local
telephone company or with another bona fide Yellow Pages
publisher you recognize. Further, the solicitation may lead you
to believe that your business already has been listed in the
telephone directory and you are now being billed when, in fact,
you are only being solicited for placing an ad.

Typical language used on the ad solicitations, such as "present
listing information;" "prompt payment is necessary to guarantee
ad placement in the directory;" "renewal payment stub;" and
"directory listing renewal invoice" also may appear on Yellow
Pages invoices. This adds to the confusion.

How To Protect Yourself

Examine the piece of mail you have received and determine whether
it is a solicitation or an invoice. If it is a solicitation, you
should see a disclaimer required by the U.S. Postal Service. It
states, 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. But whether you see this solicitation
disclaimer or not, be wary.

Consider taking the following additional precautions:

l Investigate the company and its product before responding.

l Ask for a copy of a previous directory edition.

l Ask the publisher for written information about its
directories. Ask for distribution figures, the method of
distribution, and the directory's life span.

l Ask where the directories are distributed and whether they
go to all local telephone customers.

l Ask if directories are available free. If there is a fee,
ask for the cost.

l Call your local Yellow Pages publisher to learn if it is
associated with the company soliciting your business. If more
than one Yellow Pages publisher distributes directories in your
area, call the publishers whose books you are considering for
your ad; ask if they are associated with the company that sent
you the solicitation.

l Check with consumer protection officials in your state and
in the state where the company is located to learn if they have
received any complaints about the publisher. Keep in mind,
however, that suspect companies often leave before complaints are
registered or before local authorities have a chance to act. Just
because your local consumer protection agency has no complaints
on file against a company, that does not mean the business is
legitimate.

What To Do if You Are a Victim

If you believe you have been the victim of this misrepresentation
scheme, contact your Postmaster or local Postal Inspector. Look
in your telephone directory under "U.S. Government, Postal
Service U.S." for local listings. If there is no listing, write:
Chief Postal Inspector, United States Postal Service, Washington,
D.C. 20260-2100, or call (202) 268-4267.

You also may direct questions about Yellow Pages directory
publishers to the Yellow Pages Publishers Association (YPPA), a
private trade association representing over 140 Yellow Pages
publishers throughout the United States. Write: Yellow Pages
Publishers Association, 340 E. Big Beaver Road, 5th Floor, Troy,
MI 48083, or call (313) 680-8880.

For More Information

To learn how to protect yourself from other fraudulent sales
practices that may affect your business, send for the free
brochure, Buying by Phone. Write: Public Reference, Federal Trade
Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580. You also may write to this
address for a free copy of Best Sellers, which lists all the
FTC's consumer and business publications.


(Downloaded from CompuServe's Consumer Forum (go SAVE) )






 
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