BBB Tip: Directory Scams

Pay attention to invoices so you don't get tricked into paying for a listing in a directory or Yellow Pages that you didn't actually order.

stack of phone booksThis scam targets businesses and organizations of all types, attempting to fool them into paying for a listing or ad space in a non-existent directory or Yellow Pages. In some cases, the directory will technically exist, but will not be widely distributed and a listing will be of little or no value—these directories are essentially props in the scammer’s ploy.

How the Scam Works:

Scammers call companies claiming to represent Yellow Pages or another business directory, real or fabricated. When the scammer gets someone from the business on the phone, he or she will claim to be updating the directory and asks for basic information, such as the business's address, telephone number and email. After the target replies, the representative repeats back the information and prompts the employee to confirm the listing. 

A few weeks later, the business receives an invoice for several hundred dollars for an ad or listing in the directory. When the business calls to complain, the representative says that an employee verbally confirmed the placement. In many cases, the scammer even plays back a spliced version of the previous conversation. The altered recording makes it sound like the employee agreed to the charge, when, in fact, he or she was saying "yes" to the listing information.

Tips to Spot This Scam:

  • Train staff. Make sure that the people processing invoices or answering phone calls are aware of these scams.

  • Create a process for inspecting invoices. Always check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice. Designate a small group of employees with authority to approve purchases and pay the bills.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams”.

Last Reviewed: March 7, 2017