A reader asked recently about the latest round of telephone books that have made their way to doorsteps.

Why were the AT&T “Real Yellow Pages” only business listings and not residential listings?

AT&T spokeswoman Holly Hollingsworth said beginning last year, the Akron market was included in what the company calls its “Customer Choice” program. Residential white pages were published in a separate book, but were not automatically delivered. However, the AT&T “Real Yellow Pages,” which are yellow page and white page listings of businesses, are automatically delivered.

This year, Akron is one of 75 markets that don’t get the residential phone books automatically, said Hollingsworth.

“This program recognizes that the usage of residential white pages has decreased over time and that the automatic distribution of printed residential white pages is not consistent with AT&T’s environmental sustainability efforts. This program gives customers the option of using electronic search options such as www.realpageslive.com or www.YP.com, or requesting a printed book. The more frequently used AT&T YP Real Yellow Pages and business white pages continue to be automatically delivered to businesses and households,” she said.

Customers may request a copy of the residential listings book via www.realpageslive.com or by calling 866-329-7118.

Individuals may also request to stop all directory deliveries by visiting www.yellowpagesoptout.com.

Recycling phone books

Most community curbside recycling programs will accept unwanted phone books, including Akron and Cuyahoga Falls. Recycling bins for both River Valley Paper Co. and Abitibi can be found in parking lots at schools and churches and also accept phone books.

The Summit/Akron Solid Waste Management Authority also recycles phone books. Since 1993, the authority says it has recycled or diverted more than 302,000 pounds of telephone books from landfills.

Drop-off locations are:

• Barberton: 677 Brady Ave. (Barberton Street Dept.);

• Mogadore: 194 Hale St. in Lions’ Park;

• New Franklin: 5611 Manchester Road (behind Administration Building);

• Norton: 4060 Columbia Woods (near Norton Administration Building).

Directory assistance

On the subject of phone books, a related topic is directory assistance. There’s no need to dial 4-1-1 to pay a fee to get a phone number anymore.

Toll-free numbers and Internet websites, including one from AT&T, offer free directory assistance. But you have to listen to a short advertisement first.

AT&T’s free service is 1-800-YELLOWPAGES (800-935-5697) or www.yellowpages.com. Another is Free411.com at 1-800-373-3411.

If you have a smart phone, there are “apps” for phone books, including Yellowbook (which also has an online lookup at www.yellowbook.com).

AT&T’s Yellow Pages’ app is “YP mobile” and Free 411’s app is “Free411 Yellow Pages Search.”

Consumer fraud

Here are two recent Federal Trade Commission actions to note:

• The FTC stopped an Internet scheme that allegedly used bogus “free” product offers that deceived consumers in the U.S. and other countries and charged them for products they didn’t want or agree to purchase. The settlement order permanently bans Jesse Wilms and his companies from using “negative-option” marketing, a practice in which the seller interprets a consumers’ silence or inaction as permission to charge them. The settlement imposes a judgment of $359 million.

Most of the defendants are located in Alberta, Canada, and the FTC worked with Canadian law enforcement.

According to the FTC complaint in May 2011, Wilms and his companies lured consumers with “free” trial offers of weight-loss pills, teeth whiteners, health supplements, a work-at-home scheme, access to government grants, free credit reports and penny auctions. Consumers were often charged for the “free” trial and a monthly recurring fee, typically $79.97 and additional “bonus” offers.

• In another action, a U.S. District Court halted an operation that the FTC alleges collected phantom payday loan “debts” that consumers did not owe. Consumers received millions of collection calls, and since January 2010, the operation took in more than $5 million from victims, according to the FTC.

The FTC alleges that information submitted by consumers who applied online somehow found its way into the hands of the defendants, who often pretended to be law enforcement or other government authorities and threatened to immediately arrest or jail consumers who would not agree to pay.

But the consumers didn’t owe money to the defendants. Either the payday loan debts didn’t exist or they owed someone else.

The FTC has online information on various consumer issues at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/credit.shtm.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.