GEORGE NEWS - A well-known George company is the latest victim to fall prey to a Durban-based "entrepreneur" who is raking in cash on the back of the @telkomsa.net domain.
An admin clerk of the local business, who asked for anonymity, received an e-mail from two different companies asking her to update their company details for inclusion in the telephone directory and white pages. One of the companies, referring to itself as White Business Pages Pty Ltd, provided the following e-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The clever use of the telkomsa.net domain dupes a busy worker into believing this is the real McCoy. As a clincher, "Southern Cape and Karoo Telephone Directory (2018)" is posted at the top of the page in bold type.
Free search engine optmisation is also stressed. It then leaves space for the unsuspecting clerk to fill in the company details.
But, just below this in much smaller print, the agreement states you will pay White Business Pages R6 000 per year and informs you they are not affiliated to Telkom or Trudon (formerly known as Telkom Directory Services).
The second company - if not the same people operating under a different name - demands a whopping R12 000 a year for a web entry. According to their letterhead, Business Entries operates from 115 Musgrave, Berea in Durban with the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org, but messages to the e-mail address and their landline number, 031 220 2000, remain unanswered. The PDF forms sent via e-mail are so similar that one cannot but conclude that the two companies are one and the same.
In October last year, renowned consumer journalist Wendy Knowler wrote about a company called Telecom Directory that was doing exactly the same. Knowler advised people who had fallen for the scam "not to pay, certainly not without the receipt of a summons". She wrote that the Advertising Standards Authority had alerted business owners to this "apparent scam" after many complaints regarding the misleading "offer".
Are White Business Pages and Business Entries copycat scammers or the very same guys from Telecom operating under new names?
The Georgian who was caught by the scam says initially a woman from the company constantly phoned her saying she was going to lose her listing in the directory if she does not fill in the form. She eventually obliged without reading the small print and that's when the repeated demands for payment and threats of blacklisting started. Our local lady was threatened by a Veronica Joseph while someone complained on Hello Peter about a Josephine Botha who "calls all day with threats to blacklist me and the company I work for". See the similarities?
But our naive Georgian need not flagellate herself. Taking a tour through Hello Peter and cruising the web reveals a myriad complaints and news articles about these scammers who prey on busy office workers' tight schedules and credulity.
Telkom has often warned against scammers impersonating the telecommunications provider and urged affected businesses to report the matter to police. "Please note that the Yellow Pages online business service is the only service which is associated with Telkom. Businesses can choose to advertise with the Yellow Pages for a fee, but are under no obligation to do so," a Telkom spokesperson told George Herald.
"The telkomsa.net domain does not indicate that the business is part of Telkom. This domain is available to Telkom residential subscribers for home e-mailing use."
So, get a magnifying glass and read the fine print. If it's almost illegible, it's for a very bad reason.
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