By Matt Gephardt and Kate Valentine
(KUTV) A group of scammers will have to pay more than $10 million after stealing from countless businesses around the country. This particular scam works by tricking the business managers into thinking the company had agreed to some sort of advertisement and they are trying to collect for that never-ordered service. Savvy businesses that didn't pay would face all sorts of threats and intimidation. Still, not everyone was bullied into paying the crooks.
Devin Christensen is a Draper, Utah dentist who, in January, decided to Get Gephardt to try and assist in putting an end to harassing calls bombarding his office. The genesis for the calls began months earlier, when hygienist Melissa says she got a phone call from someone claiming to be the yellow pages.
“They asked me if I was authorized to verify our address,” Melissa recalls. “I said, yeah, I guess."
Melissa says she verified the office address and that was the end of the conversation. Several months later, a company claiming to be Local OYB is demanding $550 for an online listing. It is a listing that nobody ever ordered.
For months, the office has been getting calls and letters demanding payment and threatening collections. The calls occur so frequently, one even came in the 20 minutes 2News was in the office for the on camera interview. At my request, Dr. Christensen put me on the phone.
"Why are you calling people and demanding they pay for something that nobody ever signed up for?" I asked.
The man on the phone claimed to be from Local OYB and he told me they have a purchase order from Dr. Christensen. I asked him to send it to me but he refused.
In January, Local OYB had a warning on their website saying that someone has been using their name, trying to fraudulently collect.
To the Federal Trade Commission, this is a familiar story. After numerous complaints to the FTC from business owners, they sued and this week a judge ordered Yellow Page Marketing B.V. to pay more than $10 million. The judge also banned the company from doing further business inside the United States.
It is unclear if Yellow Page Marketing B.V. is in anyway affiliated with the people who were calling Dr. Christensen. The FTC found Yellow Page Marketing B.V. operates under several names. What is clear is that the accusations are the same.
These phone calls and letters and faxes are becoming a more common scam, so common in fact that the FTC has now issued an alert titled, "When Yellow Pages Invoices are Bogus."
That alert can be found here: http://business.ftc.gov/documents/alt019-when-yellow-pages-invoices-are-bogus
(Copyright 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)