FTC Halts Online ‘Yellow Pages’ Scammers

Canada-Based Schemes Targeted Small Businesses, Nonprofits in U.S.

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At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal court has banned the Montreal, Quebec, area-based operators of a business directory scam from the directory business and ordered them to pay the Commission more than $1.2 million to use for reimbursing victims of the scam.

The order resolves FTC charges filed in March 2015, that the defendants, Ivan Chernev, German Lebedev, and their companies, billed small businesses and nonprofits in the United States for unwanted listings in online “yellow pages” business directories. The court halted the operation and froze the defendants’ assets pending litigation. The defendants did not respond to the FTC’s allegations and the court has entered a default judgment and order against them.

Using a variety of business names, the defendants sent medical practices, churches, and retirement homes unsolicited invoices with the familiar “walking fingers” image, seeking $480.95 or a similar amount for a one-year directory listing. When consumers ignored the invoices, the defendants sent collection warnings demanding payment of more than $2,000. When consumers still refused to pay, the defendants sent dunning notices, posing as a third-party debt collector.

The court order prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, profiting from customers’ personal information and failing to dispose of it properly, and trying to collect payments for any business directory listings. The $1.2 million judgment imposed by the order must be paid within seven days.

The defendants are American Yellow Browser Inc.; American Yellow Group Inc.; Distribution H.E.P. Inc., also doing business as American Yellow Distribution and Medical Yellow Directories Inc.; Official Yellow Guide Inc.; Publication A.A.P. Inc., also d/b/a All American Pages and Official Yellow Guide; Publication A.Y.B. Inc., also d/b/a American Yellow Browser Inc., American Yellow Group Inc., and All American Pages Inc.; Publications A.Y.D. Inc.; Ivan Chernev, also d/b/a American Yellow Corporation Inc., General Credit Protection Inc., and Credit Bureau Recovery; and German Lebedev, also d/b/a American Yellow Directories Inc.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, entered a default judgment and order against the defendants on November 20, 2015.

The FTC would like to thank the United States Postal Inspection Service, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Attorneys General of Illinois and North Dakota for their assistance.

The FTC also would like to acknowledge the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Centre of Operations Linked to Telemarketing Fraud (Project COLT) for their invaluable assistance. Launched in 1998, Project COLT combats telemarketing and mass marketing crime and includes members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Sureté du Québec, Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, Canada Border Services Agency, Competition Bureau of Canada, Canada Post, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Secret Service), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Since its inception, Project COLT has recovered over $26 million for victims of mass marketing fraud.

To learn more, read Small Business Scams.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Frank Dorman
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2674

STAFF CONTACTS:
John Hallerud
FTC Midwest Region
312-960-5615