Inspectors: Scammers pose as the 'Yellow Pages'

Small businesses often targeted

Published On: Jun 18 2013 09:34:01 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 19 2013 06:20:00 AM EDT

The name "Yellow Pages" and the iconic "walking fingers" logo are not copyright or trademark protected.  That means scam artists can easily use the "Yellow Pages" name and logo in an effort to scam small business owners.

“They would call or mail a solicitation under the guise that it was an invoice for the Yellow Pages advertisement,” explained Christopher Cizin, U.S. postal inspector.

When those ad solicitations arrive, small business owners oftentimes fill out the paperwork assuming they're updating their current Yellow Pages listing.

“Then, shortly after that they would receive an invoice for $499,  $599 or $1,299 for an online listing in the Yellow Pages,” said Cizin.

If companies don't pay that invoice, Cizin explained, “They would receive threatening letters, threatening phone calls saying they were going to report them to collection agencies and have lawyers call them.”

But it was usually just a bullying tactic.

“In most cases the attorney wasn’t a real attorney. The collection agency -- it was just another person who worked at that company,” said Cizin.

Postal Inspectors says small business owners should always request additional information from a solicitor.  Ask how, where and how often the directory will be distributed.  Also, check with your local Yellow Pages publisher to see if they are affiliated with the solicitor.

Postal Inspectors say online Yellow Pages scams can be just as tricky and hard to spot.  Always ask questions to figure out who exactly you're dealing with.