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Yellow Pages scam targets small business owners

6:18 PM, Aug 10, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. --  Donna Stokes was in business ten years ago selling bandanas for bikers. But it was no longer profitable, so she closed the doors.

"My import fees went up," she said, "I sold them for $40, I made them for $30 so it was no longer worth it."

Stokes was surprised this week to learn that she owes the Yellow Pages for an ad that was placed two years ago, eight years after she closed her business.

"The business had been closed and I was in Japan in February 2010," said Stokes, "so there was no reason for me to place an ad with anyone."

Stokes told the telemarketer with the Yellow Pages invoice it was not her debt. She said she was then told to pay a $600 past due amount immediately or the debt will increase to $1,000. Even though she knows she did not create the debt, Stokes is concerned. 

"I've had sleepless nights," she said. 

She's afraid that it will ruin her credit and escalate into a bigger problem. For those reasons she's tempted to pay, but feels she will be giving in to pressure.

"I don't want to be responsible for something I did not do," she said. 

What Stokes has experienced is the exact tactic in the phony Yellow Page invoice scam. The scheme is not new, but it is one of the most persistent that continues to plague small business owners.

The Federal Trade Commission has shut down Yellow Pages scam operations before.

Her message to other small business owners is simple: if it is not your debt, hang up on the caller.

"The caller was relenting. He would not let me off the phone," she said.

To minimize your chances of becoming a victim of this scheme: 

-Ask for proof of claims.

-Read the invoice. Bogus invoices are sometimes marked with the notice "This is Not a Bill." They may also lack a phone number.

-Check the BBB on any business that has contacted you before signing anything or giving out any payments or information.

-File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

First Coast News

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