Beware fake telephone directory scam in South Africa

South Africans should be vigilant when filling in telephone directory listing forms that appear to be from Telkom or Trudon, as this is not always the case.

Other directories or scam artists sometimes use subtle techniques to make their forms appear to be from these companies at first glance.

A MyBroadband reader was recently sent one of these forms and mistakenly signed up to a new directory rather than renewing their Yellow Pages listing, which is what they assumed they were doing.

This cost the reader over R8,000 and signed them up to a directory they had no desire to be listed on.

The form said that once completed, it should be sent to a “telkomsa.net” email address, which could easily pass as an official Telkom email address to the average user.

The form is also labelled multiple times as “Telecom Directory”.

It includes an “Agreement” section in fine print, which highlights that this listing is in fact not affiliated to Telkom or Trudon – but many readers might not take the time to read through this wall of text.

Visiting the directory’s HelloPeter page reveals pages of complaints from users who claimed that they were led to believe that this was an official Telkom document.

Telkom responds

Telkom said that scams where parties pretend to be Trudon or Telkom, such as the one outlined by the MyBroadband reader, are common.

“We get queries from customers on a fairly frequent basis who believe they have dealt with the Yellow Pages or Telkom or have an issue with their advert not appearing in the official Yellow Pages when they receive a copy,” said Telkom.

While it is legal for other entities to offer business listings in either print or digital format, Telkom said that if they create the impression that they are doing this on behalf of Telkom, Trudon, or Yellow Pages, it can potentially be viewed as fraud.

This is unless they specifically indicate they are acting as an agent of the individual to place adverts in the directories published.

“There have been instances of operators trying to make use of company or product names that are similar to those for which Telkom, YellowPages, or Trudon holds valid trademarks.  When we become aware of these instances, we do take legal action against the alleged offender.”

The company said that it has taken efforts to educate its customers on the risks of dealing with those who claim to be agents of Trudon, Telkom, or Yellow Pages.

“Where possible we provide a list of companies who have claimed to be an agent, yet are not on our accredited agency list and advise our customers to take extra care when dealing with any of these companies,” said Telkom.

“Furthermore, should it come to light that the individuals have defrauded a potential customer using a Telkom ISP address, we hand this over to the Telkom forensics team for further investigation and action.”

Beware other directories

The company said the law makes it difficult to address issues pertaining to the use of telkomsa.net email accounts in scenarios such as the MyBroadband reader’s, as these entities have not infringed on Telkom or Trudon trademarks.

However, the company warned that even if these directories are legitimate, they do not offer the same capabilities as the Telkom and Trudon options.

“These smaller operators generally do not have a wide enough distribution network or significant website traffic to benefit their customers. In addition, many of the online directory sites are not well maintained and are poorly designed, resulting in incorrect information being displayed that could prejudice the advertiser in the long run.”

“As Yellow Pages, we invest a significant amount into constantly modernising our online directory and ensuring information is accurate and complete,” said Telkom.

“We even provide customers with tools that will enable them to ensure the correct details are shown on a multitude of platforms including Google and Facebook.”

Now read: South African WhatsApp scam warning

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Beware fake telephone directory scam in South Africa