FTC Business Alert
Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection Office of Consumer & Business Education
Business Directory Scams
Try to ‘Give You the Business’
Have you ever received a bill or invoice for a “business directory listing” you never ordered? Maybe
you’ve even received a directory in the mail along with the invoice. The invoice might list one of your
employees as having authorized the purchase. But it doesn’t necessarily reflect a charge for a bona fide
product or service.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says that businesses,
churches, and fraternal and charitable organizations are losing millions of dollars a year to bogus firms that
mislead them into paying for unordered and unwanted directory listings.
According to the FTC, con artists trick an organization’s employees into providing a name and address so
a deceptive seller can bill the organization for an unordered — and often useless — business directory listing.
These scammers often pretend to verify or renew a company’s “existing” directory listing. Employees often
provide the information, because the scammers claim they’ve done so in the past. The scammer then sends as
many urgent invoices as it takes to get paid, sometimes including a useless “directory,” sometimes not. They
create confusion and count on an organization paying to avoid their hounding.
When you resist paying, the scam sellers may use high-pressure tactics, like bullying or threatening
collection or legal action. Sometimes, they offer you a “better deal” with a phony discount. Or, if you
received a directory, they may allow you to return it (if you pay the shipping costs), but insist you pay for
the so-called listing. These directories usually are worthless; they are rarely distributed or promoted as
promised. In any case, if you pay for the “listing,” you likely will receive additional invoices — either from
the same scam artists or from others who have bought your organ