Businesses billed hundreds of dollars for unordered services

BBB warns businesses to be on the lookout for fake Yellow Pages bills


The Federal Trade Commission issued an action earlier this week against Jan Marks; Yellow Page Marketing B.V., also doing business as Yellow Page B.V. and Yellow Page (Netherlands) B.V.; Yellow Publishing Ltd.; and Yellow Data Services Ltd.

Yellow Pages Logo2 Businesses billed hundreds of dollars for unordered services

The walking fingers logo is not copyrighted.

BBB has received complaints about a number of companies using tactics similar to those described in the action. The complaint records show that unscrupulous companies will use many different strategies to get money from businesses.

Some business owners alleged that companies have mailed or faxed fake invoices for Yellow Pages advertising or similar directory services. Others allege that sales representatives have contacted their business to sell advertising in directories that do not exist.

Another method reported to BBB included a company calling a business to confirm the address and phone number, then sending a bill for a service the business “agreed to” on the phone. Often, the company will doctor the recording to make it appear the company agreed to buy advertising.

Companies looking to defraud business owners will often incorporate “yellow pages” into their names, as neither that name nor the walking fingers logo is copyrighted.

BBB offers these tips for business on Yellow Pages offers:

  • Verify the company name. Directories may have names that sound alike, so look closely to see who the offer is from. Independent directory publishers use the term “yellow pages” as well as local telephone companies.
  • Do your research. Once you have the exact name of the company publishing the directory, check out its BBB Business Review to see its complaint history and other information.
  • Watch for fraud. Alert your accounting personnel to be on the lookout for disguised solicitations, fake invoices and fraudulent phone calls. Read Yellow Pages offers carefully, including any small print. Look for terms and conditions, as well as costs.
  • Route the calls to a single employee. Any calls to confirm directory listings or advertising should be forwarded to one employee or small department. That employee should be trained in how to confirm that a directory is legitimate and keep a list of every directory your company has agreed to be in. This ensures that your advertising and directory listings are tracked, and prevents scammers from claiming that another employee agreed to charges.

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About Amy Fowler

As an investigator for BBB, Amy reviews local businesses who have been accused of bad customer service, poor ethics or downright illegal behavior. When she finds examples of bad business practices that harm consumers, she reports them to the public. Sometimes those reports are simply added to a company’s BBB Business Review so consumers can make informed decisions. In more serious cases, she will write a press release for the BBB website, alert the local news media or write a post for watchyourbuck.com, the blog for BBB Serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin. She started her career in customer service while earning a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas. She moved on to work as a reporter and editor for several local newspapers before coming to BBB. She is passionate both about writing and giving people the information they need to make smart choices for themselves and their families — two passions that blend perfectly in her work at BBB.