3 On Your Side

Warning: Small business owners being targeted

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Martin Alonso said he received a fax saying he owed $3,600 in fees for advertisements. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Martin Alonso said he received a fax saying he owed $3,600 in fees for advertisements. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Alonso said he didn't use the Yellow Pages for any advertisements and didn't owe anyone any more. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Alonso said he didn't use the Yellow Pages for any advertisements and didn't owe anyone any more. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Take a drive along State Route 85 in Avondale, and you'll come across a little Mexican restaurant called Raul and Theresa's.

"We make everything homemade," says Martin Alonso. "We make our own salsa. We make everything from scratch."

Alonso is part-owner and manager of the restaurant and says good food has kept customers coming back for 40 years.

But Alonso says a document that came through the restaurant's fax machine has him on edge. It's a bill for almost $3,600 and it's from a collection agency called Stewart, Mathis and Associates.

"It's a lot of money," Alonso said.

According to the collection agency, a company called Yellow Business - Open Business Directory is pursuing the restaurant for unpaid advertisements.

But Alonso says that's not true. He says Yellow Business at one time faxed him a letter asking him to answer three simple questions about his restaurant Raul and Theresa's.

"They asked, 'Is this the restaurant's name? Is this your address and is this your phone number?'" Harper asked. "Is that right?"

"That is correct," Alonso replied. "And I faxed it back."

Alonso says that was it, and he didn't think twice about it again.

"The next thing I know is I have a bill for $1,195," Alonso tells 3 On Your Side.

And that bill for almost $1,200 quickly grew to around $3,600 with fees and penalties for not paying.

3 On Your Side got involved and discovered Stewart, Mathis and Associates has a rather generic website, not to mention grammatical errors.

And when 3 On Your Side called them, they hung up on me. We also emailed them several times, but no one ever replied.

After looking a little further, we discovered that the Federal Trade Commission lists "The Directory Listing Scam" as a top scheme targeting small business owners like Alonso, saying con artists will ask a business to verify their contact information.

Then, urgent invoices are then sent.

And finally, according to the FTC, the bad guys up the ante by making collection calls and sending collection notices.

Sound familiar?

Alonso tells 3 On Your Side he now knows exactly what's going on and won't be handing over any money.

"I think that they are real smart. They know how to do it. If people don't really check, they'll fall for it and pay for it," Alonso said.

Small business owners are frequently targeted in situations similar to this and are coerced into paying money they really don't owe.

If you're a small business owner and you're targeted, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. That is information can be found at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/video-0054-how-file-complaint

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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