Today, businesses of all sizes need to vigilant with their security. There seems to be a constant stream of new breaches or scams to worry about. One of the latest is called the toner scam, and those involved “toner pirates”. Toner scams are becoming more common, and easy to fall for. In 2017, 21 people were arrested as part of an investigation into a 126 million dollar telemarketing scam that involved selling overpriced, counterfeit toner cartridges to small businesses and charities.

How the Toner Scam Works

Consumables like toner are an ideal target for thieves because the ordering of print supplies is often decentralized, unmanaged and require frequent replenishment. A toner scam will often start with a simple phone call. The pirate may call asking you to take a survey, or maybe they’ll pretend to be a service tech and ask innocent-seeming questions about your print fleet. They’ll later use the information you provide to send a legitimate-looking invoice to your payables department that will often get processed. Sometimes, they’ll just send supplies along with an invoice.

Watch for certain cues. For example, if someone offers to sell you supplies at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Often you’ll be quoted a low price for a single cartridge, but a large box will be sent to pad the bill. Supplies that are sent are often counterfeit, cheaply made, leak and can damage your machines.

Tips to Avoid the Toner Scam

Education and best practices can help you to avoid getting taken advantage of. These include:

  • Providing employees with a list of authorized vendors.
  • Appointing someone to handle your print purchasing and refering all related calls to them.
  • Never providing details about your printers over the phone.
  • Ordering only from authorized dealers.
  • Never signing for, accepting, or opening a shipment if you don’t know the source.
  • When an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is!

If you ever receive a call that doesn’t seem right, or you’re being pressured to “buy now,” hang up and call your supplier and advise the Better Business Bureau.

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