Yell.com – Could ‘Rogue’ Employees Be Responsible?

Yell.comFollowing our completely shocking experience with Yell.com sales staff, DPS Computing is asking the question – “could rogue employees be responsible for their terrible reputation”?

Further to our initial encounter with Yell.com on the telephone we immediately rang Yell.com’s customer service department to lodge a complaint against a phone call which was vulgar, rude, offensive and aggressive.  The lady that we talked to at customer services seemed to be a very polite woman – and to her credit remained polite throughout the phone call, and did indeed call back and leave us a message several days later (exactly as she indicated in the call).  During the initial phone call the lady from customers services indicated that the telephone number was not recognised as being one of theirs.  As our account (and listing) had only just been submitted and was not actually visible on the site, she informed us that she couldn’t currently access any information about our company or any calls made to it.  During our call she did apologise for the treatment we received.  She alluded to the fact that this could have been a scam call but that they would ring us back in a few days after investigating information relating to our account.

One interesting thing to note is that apparently, until a listing is displayed on the Yell.com website, it is not accessible to sales staff.  This could well be true, but the information must be stored somewhere by Yell.com in between registration and displaying the listing.  Also, information for companies is likely to be registered in many places, so it is likely that Yell.com sales staff could generate new ‘leads’ by targeting non-Yell registered businesses and gathering their information from many different Internet sources.

We unfortunately missed the return call however we got a message yesterday indicating that she could now access the account however, there was no indication that a sales representative had called us or had even been able to access our information.  She remained polite and added that should we have any more information about the call she would be happy to receive a call from us so that they could investigate further.

So…. at this stage, we’ve got a dilemma.  Could it be a scam?  Well, yes, it would be untruthful to say that there is no possibility that it is a scam.  However, there would be several indications towards the fact that the call was genuine including:

  • This call was received hours after registering for a free listing on Yell.com.
  • We helped a client of ours recently (around 2 weeks ago) register for a free listing on Yell.com – the same thing happened, within a few hours Yell.com sales called up – we were present when the call was received.
  • The caller only seemed to know information that was entered into the Yell.com website.  Now, obviously, DPS Computing is advertised in many different places, but most forms have different fields / quirks etc to them – and our information isn’t normally entered as a carbon copy of what we have entered onto the other websites.
  • The caller rang from an easily recordable (i.e. not unknown / private / withheld number) number and this number was not a ‘throw away’ pre paid mobile – again, not usually preferred by a scammer as if reported to the authorities, this number could be traced.
  • The caller stayed on the line for approximately an hour – very unusual if it was a scammer.
  • The caller stayed on the line despite questions being asked and challenges to the information being provided – again very unusual if it was a scammer.
  • Reports of call from Yell.com on ‘0800108579’ have been reported on for approximately 3 years on the Internet – again, scammers only usually set up operations for days or at most months – not years – the chance of being caught becomes too high.
  • The customer service representative informed us that she ‘did not recognise the number’.  However, there has been no direct denial that Yell do not own the phone number.

Now, obviously, this is mostly circumstantial.  But all of this circumstantial evidence adds up and when evaluated together would suggest a strong probability that callers from 0800108579 are from Yell.com.

Unfortunately, there is no way to quickly identify the registered owner of business 08xx numbers in the UK as reverse phone lookup services are illegal (please note, free services claiming to be ‘reverse phone lookup’ services are in fact, not performing a reverse look up, but instead displaying other user comments regarding this number – this is not the same thing!).

However, in addition, there are at least two experiences which have been personally witnessed at DPS where Yell.com sales staff have called straight after registering for their free listing.

Of course, one obvious possibility would be that a scammer is trawling Yell.com’s website to hunt for companies to ring pretending to be from Yell.com.  This could be plausible – however in this case, as the calls were received prior to the listing going live we can completely discount this theory.

Following this, the next day (today) we received a call from a Customers Mediation Team Executive at Yell who apologised for our experience of the sales staff and got some more details from us to continue to investigate the matter in an attempt to identify the member of staff responsible.  We were also assured that this type of behaviour by any of their staff is completely unacceptable.

Of course, the last two calls from both customer services and the customers mediation team executive were very welcome calls – and it’s obviously good to see that there are some polite and well mannered employees at Yell.  So a few brownie points for that.

However, we still remain deeply suspicious of the initial phone call.  As previously indicated it is within the realms of possibility that it could be a scammer.  However, on the balance of probability our initial call is likely to be genuinely from Yell.com staff.

DPS Computing receives many scam calls per week (ironically, most commonly relating to advertising!) which all follow similar or identical paths – the Yell.com sales call did not follow this path (or MO, if we’re getting all CSI about this! ;)) and for the reasons we listed above it is likely to be a call from Yell staff.

If it was a scammer, they’d be leaving such an unimaginably distinctive trail that they would be caught in no time – let alone being able to continue for, at least, 3 years.  It is inconceivable to believe that a company with the resources of Yell.com would not take action against “scammers” impersonating them over such a long period of time – therefore, this would indicate the call was probably genuine.

If you receive a call from Yell that you are not happy about we would strongly suggest making a complaint and contacting them.  The best way, from our experience, was phoning their customer services number 0800 555 444.  This will benefit yourself and the public in general as it will a) make Yell aware of your complaint, b) ensure it is properly investigated and c) will allow Yell to take necessary action.

Obviously, as a big company, some scammers are going to naturally try to impersonate Yell.com – this is to be expected.  It would be especially important to ensure that scammers are reported to Yell to allow them to take necessary action against them with the authorities.  However, as we have previously said, the characteristics of this call would indicate it to be genuine.  Even so, calls that you are unhappy about from Yell, scammer or not, should be reported to their customer services – if you end up reporting a scammer, it means Yell can take action to have their operations shut down and if you end up reporting a staff member, they can take the necessary disciplinary action against the employee – so either way, by complaining about a Yell call you are unhappy about is a win-win situation for both sides.

All in all, we still believe the original call came from Yell.com sales staff and they were definitely rude to say the least!  However, the two customer service Yell.com employees we talked to were polite and understanding.  We can’t help but think something shady is occurring in the Yell.com offices.  IP addresses are much easier to ‘reverse lookup’ than telephone numbers – and, unlike with telephone numbers, it is perfectly legal to do a reverse IP lookup (hence why these services are maintained on whois websites).  You will recall from our second posting regarding Yell – ‘Are Yell.com Attacking Small Businesses’ – that Andy Kinsey had published photographic evidence that commenters on his blog trying to discredit him were using computers connected to the Internet from Yellow Pages registered IP addresses.

The situation is a very murky one.  We still think that something fishy is going on at Yell.com offices.  Therefore, at this moment in time, we will be neither signing up for paid / contracted services with Yell.com nor recommending that others do so.

Finally, when considering both possibilities (so that we cover all possible eventualities):

1) If it is a scammer (which we don’t think it is, but just for arguments sake), Yell.com aren’t being very proactive about protecting customers / potential customers from them – after all they’ve been using the same phone number and ‘sales patter’ for a few years now.

2) If it is genuine (which we believe, based on our experiences and other evidence), Yell.com have got some very poor sales staff working from them providing false information and attempting underhand, immoral and dubiously legal tactics in an effort to get sales (and therefore, likely commission).

In any case, this isn’t good – not good by a long stretch.

This also calls into question legislation regarding telephone numbers in the United Kingdom.  Should it be illegal to perform a reverse phone lookup?  Well, for residential phone numbers, most probably – there are obvious privacy reasons for that.  But for business telephone numbers (including 08xx numbers)?  Well, this can’t be right – companies registering phone numbers should be accountable and ‘reverse lookup’ information for business phone numbers should be provided easily to the public (in our opinion).

The current reasoning given is that reverse lookup of phone numbers can’t be provided (due to legislation) and shouldn’t be provided as you can “always ring them back”.

That’s all well and good but there are well known scams where you receive a missed call from a number with the hope that you do ring back the number, usually a premium rate number.  This has become a common scam with 0700 numbers – as many people believe these to be mobile numbers when in fact they are premium rate numbers, similar to 09xx numbers.

Secondly, what happens if you call them back and they are a scammer?  They’re not suddenly going to pick up the phone and say “Hello.  You’re through to ScamLine – conning people out of their money since 1995”.  No they’ll introduce themselves as the same company that they said when they first rang you!

This suggests that current legislation is woefully inadequate for business telephone numbers and that reverse phone lookup for business telephone numbers would go some way to both thwarting scammers and ensuring businesses’ use their phone numbers in an acceptable manner.

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9 years ago

I share your sentiment. I get the same impression with other big companies, too. When I get calls selling vacuum cleaners, chimney cleaning services and others stuff, it bothers me when the caller has my name, address and phone number correctly. First of all, I am on the DNC. Secondly, I never give out my information to just anybody. And thirdly, I do not participate in raffles and drawings or post my information online. I wonder if the companies I’m connected with sold my information to these telemarketers.

This is why I never stop reporting phone numbers to http://www.callercenter.com and the FTC. these callers are not welcome. They should be reported for phone call harassment.

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