The scheme targets churches, medical offices and small businesses. The lesson here is to double check any suspicious bills before paying them.
Joseph Silveria runs a successful two-person janitorial service in the South Bay with his wife Carol. One day she opened a bill for an ad in a phone directory that just didn't seem right.
"My first reaction is I went and asked my husband, 'Did you order an ad?' and he says 'No,'" said Carol.
Carol simply ignored the bill, but a few weeks later, a second one arrived. She called the company, but it never returned her call.
"It made me suspicious because usually when you call a business, you do get a return phone call eventually," said Silveria.
Turns out her suspicions were correct. Peggy Penders of the Better Business Bureau in Upstate New York knows a lot about these types of companies.
"We have over 100 companies purport to provide this service, but don't actually provide it," said Penders.
This is something that's also caught the attention of the California Attorney General's Office.
"The con artist figure if they send out enough letters, some people will get confused and they'll make money," said Shum Preston from the California Attorney General's Office.
In Carol's case, her bill came from Yellow Pages Local Directory -- a company not connected to AT&T. The Better Business Bureau has received 438 complaints in three years about the company and gives it an "F" rating. Carol would get at least four bills in all, each one tacking on more interest and late fees. The last one would total more than $560. We suggested to Carol that she continue to ignore the bills, but monitor her credit report.
"Our credit score has not been affected," said Carol.
"The Better Business Bureau is not aware of any consumer who's had any effect on their credit rating or report for not paying this particular invoice," said Penders.
Eventually Carol stopped receiving the bills, but others haven't been so lucky and continue to be harassed.
"Sometimes the letters will look like they've coming from a collection agency. So we suppose that these con artists will stop at nothing include, straight up lying," said Preston.
The Yellow Pages Local Directory did not respond to our numerous email and phone inquiries. If you find yourself in this situation, you're urged to file a complaint with your local district attorney or Federal Trade Commission. What you don't want to do is pay that bill.