Alert update – ‘Yellow Pages’ directory scam moves to a new website address, continues to target Australian businesses
January 2014: SCAMwatch is warning small businesses to continue to be alert to the fake ‘Yellow Pages’ business directory scam. The scammers are now operating a site registered in Austria, ‘www.yellow-page-australia.at’, after their previous site, ‘www.yellow-page-australia.com’, was shut down.
SCAMwatch continues to receive reports from small businesses about receiving a fax claiming to be from ‘Yellow Page Australia’ and ‘Open Business Directory Ltd’ that, on first glance, appears to be seeking confirmation of their business’ contact details. However, on closer inspection, the fax is in fact an agreement to sign up to an online business directory service charged at $99 per month for a minimum two-year period.
Businesses are tricked into thinking the fax is affiliated with Sensis’ Yellow Pages® directory by using this well-known Australian company’s name and ‘Walking Fingers’ logo. However, Sensis warns that ‘Yellow Page Australia’, ‘Online Business Directory’ and the website ‘www.yellow-page-australia.at’ are in no way connected with Sensis or Telstra.
In December 2013, Sensis was granted control of the original website, ‘www.yellow-page-australia.com’, in accordance with the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, to reduce the risk to customers targeted by the scam. Efforts have already been made to close the new website down, with Western Australia Department of Commerce notifying Austrian authorities.
A ‘Yellow Pages’ scam has previously targeted Australian businesses. In April 2011, the ACCC successfully prosecuted two overseas companies for sending thousands of these types of faxes to local businesses. The Federal Court imposed penalties totalling $2.7 million against the perpetrators. Authorities in the United States and Canada also successfully prosecuted other scammers behind this global scheme. Whilst the perpetrators from this round of faxes appear to be different, the conduct is nearly identical.
Fortunately reports suggest that Aussie businesses are generally alert to the scam and not sending any money or handing over their financial details. However, businesses should be aware that if they complete and return the fax, the scammers may start hassling them for payments, including threatening them with late payment fees. They may also switch to other delivery methods such as email, letter or phone to approach their targets. Don’t let these scammers intimidate you or your staff.
SCAMwatch urges small businesses to be alert and follow these three key rules:
1. If you receive a ‘Yellow Pages’ fax or email and want to confirm if it is authentic, call Sensis on 13 23 78 2. If you receive a threatening call, email or fax demanding payment, ignore it and report it 3. Spread the word – make sure your staff are alert to how this scam works and how to protect your business (see below).
Don’t let scammers slip under your business’s radar– stop and think twice before you respond to any unexpected offers, tax invoices or demands for payment.
How these scams work
Your business receives a fax or email out of the blue from an online business directory asking you to confirm your contact details. On closer inspection of the form’s small print, it specifies details of an agreement to sign up to their advertising services.
To make the offer appear legitimate, the fax or email claims to come from a well-known business, complete with their logo and branding. It may also include a link to a website that has a reputable-sounding domain name and all the hallmarks of a professional site.
If you sign and return the form, the scammer will claim that you have accepted their offer and are locked in to pay an expensive ongoing contract, such as $99 per month for a minimum two-year period. They may demand payment 12 months in advance.
If you refuse to pay, the scammers might try to intimidate you by threatening legal action or debt collection.
Make sure the business you are dealing with is the real deal – if you receive a form or tax invoice out of the blue, verify who they are by contacting the company directly using contact details you sourced independently through a phone book or online search. Do not call a number on the fax or email you have received.
Don’t respond – ignore unexpected or suspicious approaches to your business, whether it be via fax, letter, email, at your store or over the phone. Bin it, delete it, shut the door or just hang up.
Protect your details – never give or clarify any information about your business unless you trust the other party. Also ensure you know what the information will be used for.
Make yours a ‘fraud-free’ business – effective management procedures can go a long way towards preventing scams. Have a clearly defined process for verifying and paying accounts and invoices, and try to avoid giving too many staff authorisation to make orders or pay invoices.
Don’t be intimidated – do not let anyone pressure you into making decisions involving payments or ongoing contracts. If you are unsure, always seek independent financial or legal advice.
If you think you have come across a scammer, you can report it to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.
For more information on how these scams work, check out the small business scams section on SCAMwatch.