Yellow page scam returns

FUTURE Build’s Karen McKenzie wants to warn other business owners to double-check their invoices after she was sent a $1188 bill for an advertisement that did not run.

Mrs McKenzie said an invoice arrived this week, chasing money for a listing in the Yellow Page business directory. The invoice was accompanied by a return-addressed envelope with a Hong Kong address.

Mrs McKenzie said it took a split second to realise the invoice was a scam, but wanted to warn other business operators to be wary.

“It’s a busy time of year so people might be trying to quickly pay their bills in the lead-up to Christmas,” she said.

A spokesperson from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) SCAMwatch department said there had been a surge in reports from business operators saying they’d received a fax or letter claiming to be from Yellow Page Australia and Open Business Directory.

The letters initially appear to be seeking confirmation of their business’ contact details, however, on closer inspection, the fax is 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,” the spokesperson said.

“However, Sensis warns that ‘Yellow Page Australia’, ‘Online Business Directory’ and the website ‘www.yellow-page-australia.com’ are in no way connected with Sensis or Telstra.”

In April 2011, the ACCC successfully prosecuted two overseas companies for sending thousands of these types of faxes to local businesses. 

The SCAMwatch spokesperson said scammers were very sophisticated, targeting small businesses at times when they’re more vulnerable.

“These scammers may soon start hassling businesses 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 give private details

FEDERAL member for Calare John Cobb says his office has been inundated with calls from residents targeted by scammers claiming they have been overcharged bank fees.

“My office has been receiving calls from residents who have been approached by alleged representatives of the government or a bank, advising they have been overcharged bank fees or other government fees,” he said.

“They then ask for personal details to be able to make a deposit of up to several thousands of dollars into your account, which may sound appealing for some extra cash prior to Christmas.”

Mr Cobb said the scam callers were getting more cunning.

“Never give out your personal or financial details over the phone. If in doubt about the legitimacy of any calls or emails get as much information as you can and report to Fair Trading,” he said.

tracey.prisk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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