Today there are all kinds of scam artists out there looking to defraud vulnerable businesses. A new scam that is taking hold is the toner scam, and the thieves are referred to as “toner pirates.” It’s becoming more common, and it’s a scam that’s easy to fall for. In 2017, 21 people were arrested in a $126 million dollar telemarketing scam that involved selling overpriced toner cartridges to small businesses and charities.
How the Toner Scam Works
In many businesses the ordering of print supplies is often decentralized and unmanaged. And because they require frequent replenishment, toner cartridges are an ideal target for scammers. Often, the scam will start with a phone call to conduct a survey, or to ask for information about your print fleet. The pirates later use this info to send a legitimate-looking invoice to your payables department that will often get paid. Sometimes, they’ll just send supplies with an invoice.
When you’re dealing with a toner pirate there are cues that should raise the red flag. If someone offers to sell you supplies at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Often the price you’re quoted is for a single cartridge, but a large box will be sent to pad the bill. Supplies that are delivered are typically counterfeit, cheaply made cartridges that can leak and ruin your machine.
Avoid the Scam
To avoid getting scammed, institute these best practices:
- Provide an authorized vendor list and ask employees not to buy supplies from anyone not on the list.
- Have a single person in charge of supplies purchasing and refer all calls to that person.
- Never provide details about your equipment over the phone.
- Never give anyone copier serial numbers, makes or models over the phone.
- Only order from authorized dealers.
- Never sign for, or accept, a shipment if you don’t recognize the source.
- An offer that seems too good to be true probably is!
If you ever receive a call that doesn’t seem right, or you’re being pressured to “act now,” hang up and call your supplier. If you do think you’re being scammed, give us a call or contact the Better Business Bureau.