What is the “Yellow Pages” Scam?
The “Yellow Pages” scam continues to affect small business owners despite numerous investigations and enforcement actions by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in recent years.
In general, the scam involves solicitations from publications that pretend to be affiliated with the real Yellow Pages. Neither the name “Yellow Pages,” nor the recognizable “walking fingers” logo bear copyright or trademark protection. Therefore, scammers can readily implement the Yellow Pages name and logo to represent their own publications and directories.
These solicitations will often resemble an invoice for membership fees, or for payment of advertising space in the scammer’s directory. Although the directories may appear legitimate they are unlikely to be promoted as promised or may not even exist at all.
How do the Scammers Operate?
The “Yellow Pages” scam can be extremely sophisticated and it is important for small business owners to be wary of the deceptive practices that scammers consistently employ. The scam may begin with a cold call to verify information regarding your “free” listing in the Yellow Pages for membership renewal purposes. Subsequently, scammers will send your business an invoice from the “Yellow Pages” for a new business listing. Along with the familiar Yellow Pages name and logo, the invoice may even list a 1-800 number, email, and fake website the scammers have created in an effort to appear as authentic as possible. Online Yellow Pages scams can be just as tricky and hard to spot.
Small businesses should be on the lookout for solicitations that resemble invoices, bear the Yellow Pages name and logo, and lead you to believe that your business is already listed in their directory.
What Should You Do?
If your business receives a solicitation that bears the markings or indicators of a “Yellow Pages” scam you should request additional information from the solicitor. Request information about how, where, and how often the publisher’s directory is distributed and check with your local Yellow Pages publisher to see if they are affiliated with the solicitor. Also, check with consumer protection officials in your state for prior complaints against the solicitor.
If you suspect that you have been a victim of the public “Yellow Pages” scam, document the incident by filing official complaints. Contact your state Attorney General’s office, and Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and the United States Postal Service. If in doubt you should consult with an attorney.
For additional information please refer to the NFIB Small Business Legal Center’s "Yellow Pages" scam fact sheet.
Read next: How to Spot a Small Business Scam