Avoid Phone & Mail Marketing Scams

Back in the days of the telephone book (remember those?), the telephone company lacked the foresight to trademark the phrase “yellows pages” and the “walking fingers” logo. Unfortunately, this has made it easy for unscrupulous businesses to try to take advantage of others.

Here’s how it generally works: Your school will get an “invoice” from what looks like the telephone company. It’s usually yellow, has the “walking fingers” logo on it, and appears to be very legitimate. The amount due is usually only a few hundred dollars at most. There is an incredible amount of text on the invoice in small print and lots of mild threats related to paying this bill.

However, if you read every word on the invoice (sometimes on the back), you’ll find, in VERY small print, “This is not a bill, it is a solicitation for business.” Bingo! Don’t pay it. Shred it. You might think that this would be obvious if it came across your desk, or the desk of the person that pays your bills, but it’s not. Don’t fall for this scam!

Adding to the scam will often be a sales call where the caller asks this question, “Are you the person authorized to make decisions for your company?” Many of us would answer, “Yes,” and by then it’s too late. The caller records your voice answering “yes” and dubs it into other questions that make it sound as if you were giving approval for something like advertising in the yellow pages. They will then send the bill, and call again playing back the recording of your voice sounding as if you have approved these charges. Then it turns into a scam that comes very close to blackmail where they promise to go away if you just pay the bill. I always, always, always answer “no” to this question and then ask to be removed from their call list.

We have also started getting invoices and telephone calls that are very similar to this scam, but are related to Search Engine Optimization. The calls often claim to be “authorized search engine specialists for companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.” These calls always sound official in nature, but they are not. The invoice looks equally legitimate and appears to be for fees due for having your school website listed in the search engines of Google and the other major search engines. Again you will find verbiage that says something like “failure to pay this invoice may have a negative consequence on your search engine results.” But, again, you will find (in very small print) that this is not a bill, but rather a solicitation for business.

These scammers can cost your school hundreds or thousands of dollars a year if you’re not paying close attention. At the very least, ignore these invoices. If you want to help exterminate these fraudulent “companies”, report them to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. And if you’re ever unsure, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help!

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