Image courtesy FULLISSUE.COM
Most people know L.A. Wheel and Tire as the internet's best source for OEM factory wheels in custom finishes that'll make your vehicle look amazing.
But who knew we were also defenders of the poor and downtrodden, crusaders for not only a better looking wheel, but also a better Internet for us all?
Well, we are, and we have a story to tell you if you've ever been contacted by Regional Pages (formerly found at RegionalPages.com), The Yellow Pages Online (yellowpagesONLINE.com), Regional Yellow Pages (once located at regionalyellowpagesonline.com) and their (unwitting??) collections agency dupes, A.C.A. Recovery, Inc (found at www.ACArecovery.com).
These guys, and several similarly named companies (they are probably all the same people, by the way), have been working hard at scamming small and medium size businesses since around 2005.Â That's when most of their domains were registered, anyway, so they may have been active in some form or another before that.Â Their methods are simple, effective, and can be costly, both in time AND in money.
Their "product sell" is simple:
"Hi! We're the online yellow page listings and we are offering you some extremely good Search Engine Marketing for extremely cheap.Â We've already got you listed in our database, so we just want to make sure we have the correct information."
And that right there is where the (not-so-)fun begins.Â This is how their scheme works:
- They ask you several questions about your business.Â Things like "is XYZ your business' name?" Then, "is ABC your current address?"
- Because these guys got your business info right out of Google, the info is correct, so, naturally, you say, "Yes" a whole bunch of times.
- They then try to sell you on their service ($400 to $600 for Search Engine marketing, which is a total rip-off).
- If you're smart and say "No!" they politely say goodbye and hang up.
But the fun isn't about to end, oh no.
After waiting several months, they then get back in touch with you.Â It might be a phone call, or an invoice, or a letter in the mail.Â No matter the form, the function is this: they say "Hey, you probably don't remember us, but we've been advertising you on the Search Engines and you owe us money for the marketing."
If you're like most small or medium businesses, you didn't bother writing anything down during their initial call, or if you did, it's an illegible note you threw away or that's essentially meaningless.Â On the off chance you remember anything, you're not going to be able to prove what these guys are saying is wrong.Â Even if you could, they have an ace up their sleeve: they chop up the recording of your original conversation, making it so you say "Yes" to things like, "We will charge you $450 for this service" rather than what they originally said (probably something like, "is your name Snarky McFee?").
So, what can you do to avoid these scams?
Here's several tips for how to prevent this from being an issue in the first place:
- Don't start confirming any information; don't even say the word "Yes" until you know exactly who you're talking to.
- Even if you have an idea of who you are talking to, don't ever say "Yes."Â Be non-commital ("sure" or "sounds right") if anything.
- Ask them outright, "Who are you?Â What company do you work for, and what's the exact web address."Â Don't continue the conversation until you get to their website.
- Also, if you're online when they call, Google their business name.Â Add words like "complaints" or "fraud" after their company name and Google that, too.Â Chances are, you're not the first to deal with these guys.
And what if you're already a victim of these types of scams?
- Take copious notes: the name of the person you are talking to, the company's name, the date and time of the call; everything.
- Ask for copies of the original invoice, any subsequent notices of collections, and -- perhaps most important of all -- ask for the exact website URL of the "ad" that they claim they are running for you.Â Take screenshots of this and anything else that's web-only.
- Stay firm.Â If you didn't authorize their services, tell them that.Â If they play back some hacked recording of your conversation, explain to them that you'd like a copy of the recording so you can have a sound engineer listen to it.Â Sound engineers are a dime a dozen, can work remotely, and can easily prove tampering.
And the most important tips of all:
Use every piece of information you gather to file a complaint at the following sites:
For more information about this scam and ones just like it:
PLEASE share this blog article on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else you can to help save your friends' and families' businesses from these rip-off artists!