Phony phone bills try to swindle Qwest subscribers

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The familiar “walking fingers” logo was once synonymous with the telephone yellow pages, but fraud artists sending bogus bills to telephone subscribers are illegally collecting over $500 million annually, Qwest said.

“Bogus bills are created to look like legitimate yellow pages invoices with the ‘walking fingers’ logo; however many yellow pages publishers, including QwestDex, have completely dropped the walking fingers logo from their products,” said Danielle Jimenez, QwestDex media relations manager.

The billings have apparently gone out to subscribers in QwestDex’s 14-state service area. Businesses can protect themselves by being aware of the issue, and closely scrutinizing any solicitation attempting to collect on advertising services outside the scope they are used to seeing, Jimenez said.

Most bills are between $100 and $200, and the scam artists usually phrase their pitch by sending a letter that asks the subscriber to proofread a listing, and then return a card. The small print on the card is actually a contract to place a listing in an obscure directory with limited distribution. Sometimes it is only a web listing.

The best way to avoid being ripped off, Jimenez said, is to scrutinize all bills and read all the fine print before returning confirmation cards or paying a bill. Jimenez said people who receive the bogus bills should report it to the Better Business Bureau and to the local postal inspector and the state attorney general.

For more information, call the Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association at 800/841-0639.