WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- "Once I heard the recording, I said, well you agreed to something. We'll just have to pay the bill," says Tammy DeSilva.
But it was all part of a scam. According to court papers, the Federal Trade Commission has asked a federal judge to halt and freeze the assets of the bogus company that operated out of Canada by three men who also ran 15 other companies using the Yellow Pages name and logo.
In its complaint, the Commission alleges that the defendants violated the FTC Act by misrepresenting that they had a preexisting business relationship with consumers, that they agreed to buy directory listings for $499, and that the consumers owed the bogus company money.
Here's how the scheme works. Once the business verifies its information with Yellow Pages Online.net, they got a bill in the mail.
When the business challenged those charges, the Yellow Pages Online representative claims they got a verbal agreement over the phone for the billing. And, they played back a spliced audio version of the conversation, making it sound like the business really did say "yes" to authorizing the charges.
"They said we're trying to update our records," says church secretary Debbie Vincent.
It took six simple words. United Baptist Church in New Carrollton, Varsity Graphics and Awards in Woodbridge, both victims of the Yellow Pages Online.net scam where they were asked to confirm their information with a simple, "yes."
But, the church and the small business both say they never agreed to the nearly $600 dollar fee that Yellow Pages Online.net claimed they owed for advertising. And when they challenged the charges, the crooks played back a portion of their conversation that made it appear they had agreed to pay for that service.
"It's a creative interpretation on the part of the company," says Edward Johnson.
The Better Business Bureau President and CEO says hundreds upon hundreds of people across the country were tangled in this web of deception that uses their own voices against them. And, when you try to cancel, the crooks hit you up for more.
BBB Yellow Pages Online
BBB Local Business Yellow Pages
Johnson says, "In this particular complaint, the cancellation fee was $499. It's outrageous."
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FTC Throwing The Book at Business Directory Scams
The Federal Trade Commission not only wants to stop the illegal practice permanently, but to also make the defendants return the money they scammed from the businesses and the churches.
FTC Stops Yellow Pages Online Scam
The FTC says this scheme generated more than 13,000 complaints from consumers.