On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that a federal judge temporarily has put a stop to a Canadian operation that is suspected of defrauding small businesses and churches out of more than $14 million for ads in online business directories that they never wanted.
All told, the FTC received 13,000 complaints from consumers about this particular scam, which the defendants are accused of running under 15 different business names.
Based on FTC documents and court filings, it doesn’t appear this Montreal-based operation is connected to the scam being perpetrated in New Mexico.
I first wrote about this scam in an Oct. 9 blog posting (“BBB warns businesses of phone directory scam“) and later in greater detail in my Oct. 20 Scam of the Week column ( “Shady Yellow Pages phone scam widespread in NM”).
Under this scheme, people posing as representatives of an online Yellow Pages directory called businesses under the guise of updating their directory listings — listings that never existed.
After confirming the company’s mailing address, telephone number and other basic information, the scammers then proceeded to bill these businesses $499.99 on average for online listings they insisted they agreed to purchase.
Those businesses that refused to pay were threatened with referral to a collection agency and legal action, which the FTC says ultimately convinced many businesses to pay the phony bills.
Here is a link to the FTC’s news release and related court filings.