Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Beware the fake Telkom directory listing update request.

I continue to get a steady stream of e-mails from the owners of medical practices and small businesses across the country who were duped into signing a two-year contract for a listing in an obscure online business directory‚ believing they were being asked to confirm or update their existing listings in the white and yellow pages which are run by Telkom’s directory partner‚ Trudon.

The latest crop includes a jeweller in Brits‚ a Port Elizabeth guesthouse and a towing company in Mpumalanga.

Now they are getting harassed by a debt-collecting firm to pay up‚ and while the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that the approach that the company calling itself Directories Services 2 makes to businesses is totally misleading‚ business owners are terrified of being blacklisted.

The amounts being demanded are not small — R7‚200 upfront for a R300 per month contract over 24 months‚ inflated by interest if not paid.

I have established that the debt-collection agencies used — DDR Legal Collections and, more recently‚ NCR Legal Debt Collections — are owned by the same person who owns the "not Trudon" directory listings operation — Ashwin Dwarika.

The one department tricks small-business owners into committing to a two-year contract‚ and the other then badgers them to pay.

My media queries have been ignored‚ but I was alerted this week to the fact that a fake Facebook profile had been created in my name‚ with a post in which "I" say that I have been "uninterrupted with" numerous e-mails and questions regarding a company called DDR Legal Collections.

"After numerous calls to verify that their (sic) are an Existing Company Located in SA‚ a Collection Agency that works with the Debt Collection Attorneys. They act on behalf of Companys that have outstanding Debt. Standard Bank Has announced that it is a Legitimate Bussiness which has Branches in South Africa," the fake "I" goes on to state.

I’ve been impersonated and misquoted many times‚ but a fake Facebook profile and post of me endorsing a dodgy debt collector‚ in unspeakably bad English, is a new low.

Facebook has since deleted the fake profile.

The Council for Debt Collectors‚ with which all companies operating as debt collectors are legally obliged to register‚ has confirmed that NCR Legal Collections registered with the council in May 2017.

"We have had many complaints about them‚" a spokesperson said‚ "and we are investigating". He urged affected businesses to lodge formal complaints with the council.

Meanwhile‚ my advice to those who have been caught remains the same: ignore those "pay up" calls. Do nothing unless you get a summons with a court stamp and date.

I don’t know of a single case where judgment has been sought or companies "blacklisted" for non payment‚ and I’ve been covering this lot since 2015.

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