9.11.07

When is the Yellow Pages not the Yellow Pages?

When it's the OYP Group.

There is a new scam in town. Relatively new, that is. It targets churches and small businesses.

Here is how it works:

A company called "the OYP Group" or "the Real Yellow Pages" gets your church name from a database and enters you (without contacting you or without your consent) into their business directory. It is a "complementary listing" that is good for one year. This is not the phone book and it is not the local yellow pages, although the representatives deliberately attempt to mislead you into thinking that they are. This company is based in Canada and has several dummy addresses in the United States (usually New York). The OYP group currently has hundreds of complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau in just about every state.

At the end of that free year, a person (with poor command of the English language) calls and identifies themselves as being with the Yellow Pages. They ask if you would like to renew your listing in the Yellow Pages. At this point you either say yes or no. Regardless of what you say, your church is now in the next step: invoices.

Your church receives a series of invoices for a two-year listing in this company's "yellow pages." Inquiries made by you are met with evasive language and statements such as "You signed an oral contract."

The next step involves calls from the company. They are legitimate-sounding calls that try to get you to pay the bogus invoice. If the invoice is not paid, your church moves to the next step.

Your church will begin to receive calls from an "Independent Collections Agency" or an "Independent Legal Department." In reality, this person is calling as part of the OYP group--it is an internal call, and there are likely no true lawyers involved. The person will be very understanding, and offer to reduce your invoice and promise not to hurt your church's credit if you pay now. But the offer is only good for that day. If the invoice is not paid, your church moves on to the next step.

(At which point the church has probably already contacted an attorney and reported this scam to the Better Business Bureau. The BBB typically advises that these invoices not be paid, and there has not yet been a recorded case of a business' credit rating suffering from not paying a bogus invoice. The attorney will likely direct the company to direct all further correspondence to him/her).

You will be called regarding the invoice again. The caller will claim to be acting "on your behalf." They will refuse to answer any questions regarding what organization they are with. The caller will tell you that you are not being recorded, but will later hint that you are. As the call goes on, the caller becomes more and more aggressive and will constantly interrupt; the caller will ignore any directives to communicate with your attorney. The caller will attempt to do anything and everything to keep you on the phone. The caller makes threats about your business' credit rating and in some cases, will make other kinds of threats as well. The best thing to do is hang up. (Some people say you can really freak them out by telling them the call is being traced).

As you can guess, our church was contacted by these people. We have been on the "Do Not Call" list for several years. We made no agreements with them. They have wasted a great deal of time (mostly theirs, but some of ours as well) trying to collect on a bogus invoice. Why do these people continue? They must earn enough money from other people to justify continuing the scam.

Why churches? I think it's because churches tend to have higher staff turnover and do not tend to have many safeguards in place--especially when offices are staffed by volunteers or secretaries without much training or experience. Church staff are more likely to be friendly and open to conversation when answering the phone as well.

Why am I posting this? This summary is a mishmash of my own experience and those of numerous colleagues in several denominations, as well as a few news reports. Obviously, it makes sense to agree to nothing over the phone as a rule. There must, however, be enough people who have succumbed to this aggressive scam. Otherwise, why would they continue?

Well, here's my message to the OYP group staff:

When ripping people off stops working out for you, come by a church and do something meaningful with your life.

26 comments:

Doorman-Priest said...

Sounds a nightmare. Thanks for the tip in case they branch out to the U.K.

D.P.

Anonymous said...

We are an HVAC company in WV and we have just recently delt with these people "OYP" We have call our attorney and they said not to pay.

Malt Viquor said...

Yeah, we got the same advice. A colleague of mine told the OYP people in no uncertain terms to "go and pound salt."

Hopefully, this Canadian export will not cross the Atlantic, doorman-priest.

Personally, I had a thought to call the fellow who most recently harrassed me and ask if he would like his name to appear in our church directory, and that he would be receiving a pledge card soon.

madinwv said...

Hi this is the girl from the HVAC company in WV. They called back again today claiming they are going to take us to small claims court. I don't believ these people are ever going to stop harassing us!

Malt Viquor said...

madinwv: If you have an attorney, I would advise you to contact them immediately. Your attorney likely advised the OYP group to direct all correspondence to his/her law office. Any further calls directly to you are harrassment. Keep a log of every call, including name, phone #, etc. It is likely that you are in the harrassment step of their process, but I would suggest reporting everything to your attorney. I highly doubt they will take you to court, for two reasons:
1. they are a scam company based in Canada with numerous drop addresses in NY. They would have to pay travel expenses and court costs, etc.
2. I don't know anything about law (let alone international law) but I am certain these people have committed some sort of fraud. If they showed up in court, any reasonably competent lawyer should be able to show that what OYP is doing is illegal.

Regardless, keep in touch with your attorney and keep a log of every phone call these people make to you.

madinwv said...

Thanks for the advice malt viquor!

free spirit said...

Well, I have to tell you. My wife and I own a business and since July of '07 they have harrassed us continuously. I have reported them to the BBB, FTC, and am now contacting all the businesses in our small town and warning them. They threaten with arrest. I can't tell you how many times I have called and emailed. Just shouting into the phone. I have been so frustrated. I have not used foul language but I have called them scum and other non-vulgar explicatives. there are numerous TV reports about them in California. If you want I will email links. It has been awful. but I have been giving it back to them by emailing and linking the reports, etc. What angers me most is they know I know they are a fraud and yet they persist! We are calling the local news here in Oklahoma to get them off our back. One of the reports stated to call the local police and report them to your states attorney general, which we are going to do. God bless, and give 'em a little taste of their medicine. I call them after hours and leave long winded messages, I email/spam them with a zillion copies of the BBB reports, news stories etc. It makes me feel better.

Malt Viquor said...

It's sad that con artists like these are allowed to exist. Nothing would feel more satisfying than to tell these OYP people to go screw themselves ... or to meet one of them in a dark alley ... and me a man of the cloth! This is to say, free spirit, that I understand your frustration and anger at these people--I've been there!!
However, may I offer some insight?
These people get off on making your life miserable. When they can get you to yell into the phone, they have won that round. Keeping you engaged, in conversation with them, is their goal. Because that simply moves you another step higher on their priority tree.

Sounds like you're on the right path. I hope the attorney general thing pans out. What these people are doing is wrong, and in some of the more extreme cases, crosses the border into evil. Not just for what it does to you, but for what it does to the poor schlubs who sit at their desks all day making harrassing phone calls. Can you imagine these losers trying to pick up a woman?

"Hi. You're cute. My job? I make harrassing phone calls all day, threatening innocent people. Hey, can I call you sometime?"

I really think these people need Jesus. I invited one of their "agents" to church during a particularly heated, threatening call. He was actually speechless for a few seconds.

Otherwise, I'd say the best thing to do is shake the dust from your feet. Like any other bully, the OYP group will lose interest when the victim stops reacting.

(But sometimes you need to punch a bully in the nose).

Taper said...

A day late. A friend showed me his invoice from the OYP Group and asked if I had ever heard of them. I looked up the name on the internet & couldn't believe it. I called him & he had just paid the bill by phone with his creditcard.
Thanks for the info, I will pass it on.

Anonymous said...

i am the office manager of a small medical clinic. even though the price was exhorbitantly high i paid it because i was confused, inexperienced, and initially unable to find information like what's on this blog.

they just called requesting another payment. i'm scared, frankly, and am at a loss for what to do.

Anonymous said...

All you guys out there..........firstly i want to ask your apologies since even i was an employee of OYP Group before.........but once i came to know about the scam i really started hating them........the way they harass people and advertise themselves

I have quit my job now.....currently im working with a reputed service based company

All you guys out there........im extremely sorry for being part of such a disgusting group of people(OYP Group)

Anonymous said...

I just hung up for the umpteenth time on these guys as they attempt to collect on their fraudulent invoice. I have told them to take it to whatever level they desire. We are not paying!

Anonymous said...

I was an employee of oyp group and another company similar to it. At first I thought it was funny how foolish people could be because all you have to do is sound professional and people believe you. I never lied to anyone in a sales call. There was no need to everyone just assumes that it is the yellow pages they use when they hear the name "yellow pages". I stayed for about a year because contrary to what people think there is quite a bit of money to be made by sales reps. Employees could expect to take home $600-$900 a week if you were good on the phone. It is a scummy way to make a living there is no doubt about that but there is an easy way to protect yourself...Don't have a dummy answering your phone. If we were a company you had done business with before why we would want to record you saying that you "are you authorized to make the purchase today?" I mean come on. No company would get an invoice if they didnt have a an employee authorizing one. Its 2008 get a brain don't place an order by phone and if you are a secretary what are you doing talking about advertising?

Anonymous said...

hey I am a small dental office and I cannot believe this oyp company they have a a recording of my staff that they got authorization to approve an ad for $399
this was not approved by me..they keep calling me and saying I owe money does anyone know what to do as they said they will send me to collections and i dont want my credit affected

Anonymous said...

We are a small business in upstate NY and have been harassed by these people since 7/07. I have repeatedly told them that it will be a cold day in you know where before I pay them. I am at the independent collection agency stage. They threaten our credit rating, etc, on almost every call. I am going to contact my local news agency now and my DA's office. I have already contacted the BBB. I am just completely aggravated because when will this stop??

Larry said...

I have received phone calls from this company, and although they are a scamming company, I fight wit with wit. Whenever someone calls claiming to put an "ad" in "The yellow pages," I ask them immediately, "How much does it cost?" Their recent new scam is saying "We are from OYP, and would like to confirm your name and address since you used us before" - when in fact you really never used them. At that point, I still say to them, "How much will this cost me?" I am persistant with that question. If they finally do answer, I say, "I am going to say no, thank you" and hang up. If they do not answer or give me the bogus story that it is "FREE"; I say to them "I am not interested, thank you."

But now we are dealing with a real hairy mess now. My wife is a pastor of a church, and someone on staff who is not authorized to make purchases, simply confirmed our address and phone number, and now they are demanding payment for their invoice.

It is a real bogus company, and their dishonest sales techniques are beyond horrific.

Bloomers said...

Just received a phone call from OYP for verification of my address to send me an invoice for the "balance" of my bill - ? Thought I had paid them in full last fall after I disputed that invoice. Several times during the intitial solicitation call I had requested written information be mailed to me, and confirmation that I was not signing up for anything until I did received something in the mail. I did not receive anything via mail, and when they called about the bill not being paid, they were able to play a "recording" to verify I had, in fact, agreed to the contract. As I was newly in business, inexperienced and naive, I paid that bill. There was no indication of anything further being owed. Now I get this call....I think they are going to be rather disappointed this time around that I'm not as gullible as I was three months ago. No money from me this time, but maybe some legal action.... Everyone I know who owns a business is getting an e-mail from me, with links such as this, so they don't make the same mistakes I did.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

01/08 - had an employee verify phone and address information over the phone and we received an invoice. We have and continue to contest this invoice! I highly encouraged him to push this through the legal system so we could settle this scam but he wanted nothing to do with it. The person who is harrassing us was going by the name of "David Smith" and his ph # is 888.401.3840 ext.1421. I told him that everytime he calls me I will call him - he didn't seem to care much for this.
The more you contest the more they call and the more threatening they get. It may take a while but they will eventually go away - I 100% will never pay this invoice!

Malt Viquor said...

Wow! I take avacation from blogging for a while, and look at all the interest in this topic.

To "anonymous" who used to work for OYP and has apologized, thank you for your apology and your candor. I hope that you have found some work that is more meaningful and fulfilling for you.

To mr. anonymous from January 28, thank you demonstrating your ability for your ability to use racial slurs and religious insults. You sure are a big boy now! Your comment will be removed as soon as I figure out how to do that. See, I'm not too web savvy because I have a life. I suggest you go out and get one too.

To all the other anonymous commenters, I am very sorry that you have had to encounter these scammers. IT is a problem that doesn't go away. I haven't heard from them since before I posted about this. BUt there is still a nagging feeling in my head that they will resurface sometime soon. All I can say is, live and learn.

And finally, to the anonymous guy who said, "get a brain people, it's 2008," and "I never lied to anyone on the phone," thank you for revealing your tactics. You treated people like they were dirt and tricked them into giving you money. It must have worked for you because you have devoted yourself to more than one employer who uses these tactics. Excuse the anger, but you are engaging in immoral behavior (and it sounds like you are enjoying it). When that stops working out for you, why don't you come by a church? Maybe you might find some real purpose and meaning in your life. And, in my church, we don't use racist, homophobic, or insulting language.

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Anonymous said...

Take notes. Then, write your State Attorney General Office with details of calls including dates and what OYP personnel are saying -include names.

Tell OYP Group you are doing this. Calls immediately come faster and are more aggressive. Then they drop off.

Most likely, after being contacted by someone "official" on your behalf, they will notice that they "neglected" to leave a call back number so you could cancel or any one of a number of other excuses.

It took eight (8) months to get them off our back.

Yes. It is stressful. And shame on them for making people waste their time, resourses and money. There's a saying, "If it's too good to be true, it probably isn't." In this case, it's the opposite... the things they are saying are too bad to be true.

We wouldn't accept tainted goods from a local vender and just pay for it ('cuz they said so...) we would cancel the contract. The same applies here.

When they targeted our company, there was no information available on the internet. Several months later, one lone comment from spokane.bbb.alerts showed up. I'm glad to see word getting out there.

Watch out for the name "Thompson Hill Publishing" who is mentioned in that BBB article.

Also mentioned in my notes are "The Real Yellow Pages" and "The Official Yellow Pages".
(I did not specify in my notes how those companies are associated with OYP Group. Are they another name for OYP or just other companies to beware of?)

Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has fallen for a yellow pages scam probably is not smart enough to walk and talk at the same time. They call me all the time and I try to keep them on the phone as long as possible just to mess with them. If they were a company that you had done business with before then why would they ask to record you saying you are "authorized to make the purchase?". You people whining about getting harassed by the collectors are such a joke. You walked right into it. Obviously you did tell them to send you an invoice if you got one. They call me all the time and I've never got an invoice. Do you feel sorry for the gazelle that gets eaten by the lion? No. Use your brain...don't be the prey.