"This mailing has every appearance of being designed to deceive unsuspecting
recipients into making a payment they assume is for their regular Qwest
phone service," Miller said. "But payments really go to an outfit operating
out of Solon, Ohio, as 'Yellow Pages Plus.' The mailing is actually a
solicitation for their so-called directory service, but it mimics a Qwest
bill so deliberately that it easily could go unrecognized by ordinary
consumers," he said.
At a news conference in Des Moines, Miller compared a Qwest invoice with
a "Yellow Pages Plus" solicitation, noting very close similarities in
format, type font, layout, wording, and Qwest's familiar blue and white
colors. Miller's office sent a letter Friday to West Publishing Business
Services warning the suburban Cleveland company that legal action may
be taken if the company does not cease mailing into Iowa. The letter noted
that the words 'this is not an invoice' do appear in the company's Yellow
Pages Plus mailing, but asserted that "the average recipient would not
interpret this [mailing] as a solicitation." Many might mistake it as
being a Qwest bill.
Miller and officials from Qwest who joined him at the news conference
urged citizens to be cautious and alert for the questionable solicitations.
Qwest's President for Iowa, Max Phillips, and Qwest's Manager for Policy
and Law, Michael Sadler, appeared with Miller.
West Publishing Business Service's "Yellow Pages Plus" solicitation appears
to be aimed especially at medium and small-sized businesses, but ordinary
consumers might also receive the solicitation, Miller said. The State
Consumer Protection Division has received about a dozen copies of the
mailing or inquiries about it in the last couple days. "We think they
probably are landing all over Iowa now and will be in the days ahead,"
All the "Yellow Pages Plus"solicitations received so far by the Attorney
General list a total amount for payment of $241.46.
One small-business owner submitted a copy of the mailing and told the
Consumer Protection Division she was very close to paying what she assumed
was her Qwest bill, but then noticed the different address at the last
Miller said phony invoice schemes and fraudulent "Yellow Page" solicitations
have been around for decades. "They usually prey on businesses and try
to trick them into thinking a bill is to renew an ad in a yellow-page
directory, often by using the famous Walking Fingers logo," he said. "This
one is a little different. Yes, it actually is a solicitation for a so-called
directory, but this one could very easily mislead people into assuming
it's their ordinary bill for telephone service."
Miller said the Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association has estimated
that questionable companies collect $500 million a year from businesses
nationwide through fraudulent billing scams.
He said businesses or consumers who make the payment to West Publishing
Business Services likely are listed in an online "directory" that may
not be known or be of any use to potential customers, and thus be of no
use to the businesses. "It may well be that they buy large database lists,
put everyone on the list in their so-called directory - and solicit the
same people with the deceptive mailing," Miller said. The "directory"
may not even be categorized, and it appears to list box-number mail addresses,
which would be of little use even if a consumer did want to visit a business
listed in the directory.
Miller urged any consumers that inadvertently made a payment to West
Publishing Business Services or "Yellow Pages Plus" to complain to his
office or the company, or both. The Consumer Protection Division letter
to the company today said the State expects the company to make refunds.
(West Publishing Business Services is not related to West Publishing,
a legal publication company part of the Thomson group.)
Iowans may contact the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926.
They also can go to the web site at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org
(click on "protecting consumers.")
Miller said his office also was spreading the alert through an "Office
Scam Alert" network of businesses and associations who in turn can alert
Click here for Qwest invoice:
Click here for "Yellow
Pages Plus" solicitation received by Iowans:
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