BBBs see Business Directory Scams on a regular basis and they appear to be a growing problem. The scammers are misleading, vague and rushed in their contacts with employees, which results in companies being sent invoices for hundreds of dollars for fraudulent listings or unwanted services. This works because scammers convince the person answering the phone that they are simply "verifying" an existing arrangement with a directory.
A Business Directory Scam starts with a phone call. A con artist calls an office, asking the person answering the phone to "confirm" the company's address, telephone number, or other information. They claim it's for a listing in the yellow pages or similar business directory. The scammer then asks a series of questions and may record them on tape for verification.
Next, the con artist sends urgent "invoices" for $500 or more. They include a copy of the directory mentioned during the phone call. Often, the "directories" are just websites with business listings. Without realizing the company never agreed to pay, the person paying the bills may cut a check.
If the company or business refuses to pay, the scammers may become aggressive. They use threats of legal action to collect payment in attempt to damage the company's credit ratings. They may use the name of the person who answered the phone as "proof" that the company owes them money. They will play the verification tape that has been doctored in a way no one could have understood.
If companies stand firm in refusing to pay, the scammer may try to offer a phony discount. They also may let the company return the directory at the company's own cost. Some companies may pay just to stop the hounding, but they are likely to receive more bogus invoices, resulting in large money losses.
BBB offers the following tips to protecting your business:
1. Train your staff to spot this scam
Educate your employees about the scam. Talk to everyone who may pick up the phone.
2. Inspect your invoices
Designate a small group of employees to approve purchases and pay the bills. Inform all other employees to send any inquiries to them. Don't pay for products or services that aren't authorized. Do not be mislead by a logo or name attached with the invoice, they may not be protected by any federal trademark registration. Remember it is illegal to mail a bill, invoice or statement of account that is really a solicitation, unless is states "this is not a bill."
3. Develop a "show me" attitude
Encourage the accounting department or bill-payers to find proof when it comes to unexpected invoices from companies they are not familiar with. Organize a list of all companies you use for recurring expenses.
4. Find businesses you can trust at www.bbb.org
Check the reliability of any company with BBB. Please file a complaint right away if you have already become a victim.