BBB Small Business Tip: Watch Out for Directory Scams

BBB has seen an uptick in directory scams (or “Yellow Pages scams”) aimed at small businesses. Reports to BBB Scam Tracker ( have increased dramatically in recent weeks, and BBB is reminding business owners and employees not to fall for this trick.

Here’s how the scam works. The company gets an invoice in the mail for what turns out to be a fake directory ad. The scammers are hoping that the company’s accounting department will just pay the invoice without checking to see who ordered the ad.

Another angle – the one that BBB is seeing more lately – is when the scammer calls the business claiming to be “verifying your information” for a directory or “updating our records.” The caller asks a bunch of questions, including the address for the business. An important factor to this scam is getting the employee to say the word “yes” at some point. Soon, the business receives an invoice for several hundred dollars for a directory ad. The invoice often fraudulently uses the name Yellow Pages or its famous walking fingers logo to appear authentic. If the business protests that they never ordered the listing, the scammer offers as “proof” a recording of the original phone conversation, which may be edited to make it sound like the employee said “yes” to advertising.

Yet another scheme is an email, fax, or letter asking the company to “verify” its contact information for a free listing or page on a social network. Another variation is the receipt (by mail or fax) of the prepared “ad,” asking the business to confirm the information. Buried in the fine print is a statement that returning the mailer or replying to the fax is an agreement to purchase the ad or directory listing.

Whatever the scenario, if the company refuses to pay, the scammer makes collection calls, sends urgent collection notices, and even threatens to report the company to a collection agency, take them to court, or ruin the credit of the owners and employees. Often, the business will pay up just to get the scammers to leave them alone, but that rarely works. Once scammers have pegged a business as an “easy mark,” they will be back with more scams in the future.

Your best bet is to simply ignore the scammer’s mail, fax or email solicitations. If you get a call, say “We are not interested” and hang up.

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