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Qwest-crossed company

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At best it’s misleading, at worst it’s fraud. This from Yellow Pages Plus company, which recently sent a mailing to Montana addresses.

“This is the most misleading thing I’ve seen,” says Cort Jensen, consumer protection attorney for Montana. “This is the fake invoice type scam. Nothing in it is untrue but the purpose is to mislead.”

Obviously designed to mimic a telephone bill from Qwest, the mailing is actually a solicitation for advertising in an on-line directory. The mailing admits as much in a discrete disclaimer on the front but it’s easy to miss. However, the fine print on the back clearly states that sending payment means the deal is accepted.

There are too many similarities between the Yellow Pages Plus mailing and a Qwest bill to be coincidence. The physical dimensions are the same and, like a Qwest bill, the mailing is a modified tri-fold with a tear-off pay stub. It also includes a blue logo and a summary of charges in a blue field, both in the same position as a Qwest bill.

But the sophisticated Yellow Pages Plus gimmick doesn’t stop there. The layout of text on the mailing is identical to a Qwest bill, except there is a substantial charge for “Enhanced 411” and zero charge for “Basic” telephone service. The term “Enhanced 411” plays off “Enhanced 911,” a county-based program to improve emergency response. The Yellow Pages Plus mailing even has a list of states to be included in the on-line directory. And, not surprisingly, the 14 states listed are the same western states where Qwest provides local telephone service.

The Yellow Pages Plus mailing is confusing enough that Qwest customers have been calling the telephone company to complain. It’s not the first scam perpetrated on Qwest customers, but it’s the first to come in the mail instead of the typical phone call, says Michael Dunne, the company’s spokesman for Montana.

“This is a bogus bill,” Dunne says. “They’ve obviously done a rather clever job making it look like ours. The strategy is to send it out to as many people as possible because most of them are going to notice something is wrong but a few people who are not paying attention might send it back. We’re contemplating taking legal action against that company.”

Phone calls to Yellow Pages Plus are fielded by a customer service representative who won’t discuss the Ohio-based company or the mailing. She will, however, take a number to pass on to her supervisor. But the supervisor hasn’t returned inquiries from the Independent. Jensen warns that anyone who falls for the scam will suffer the same treatment trying to get their money back.

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