Business owners beware: There's a new spin on an old office supply scam, and it’s happening all over the USA. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “toner pirates" are bilking businesses out of millions of dollars. Who is at risk? Any business with a phone—in short, every business out there.
Advanced Business Equipment (ABE) sales executive Joe Donovan recently came across such a situation with a client who had placed a service call. Coincidentally, she shortly thereafter received a call, ostensibly from ABE, with the caller attempting to sell her toner. She then called Donovan, explaining that she’d placed a service call, not a call for more toner. Says Donovan, “After some initial confusion, we realized that she’d been approached by a toner pirate.”
How does the scam work? The most common scenario is when a person calls a business to determine what type of copier it uses, and then tries to sell toner. If they are able to send toner and have it signed for by a receptionist or someone at a front desk, the game is on. They’ll wait a little while then strike again, posing as the copier service dealer selling your toner. “The person who called my client actually claimed to be an employee of ABE!” says Donovan.
The bait is frequently a “close out sale, with great prices,” when in reality, the prices will generally be 40-60 percent above the market retail price—and frequently of an inferior quality that may not be good for your copier. If the machine were to be damaged by the inferior product, the service contract could be voided.
The FTC affirms office supply fraud counts among its victims large and small businesses, schools, government agencies and nonprofit institutions, and costs them an estimated $200 million per year.
Kevin Jackson, CEO of Advanced Business Equipment, says “The best way to guard against this scam is employee education.” Within your office, establish who the point of contact will be with your business supplier and ensure that all office staff knows to direct calls of this nature to that point person.
In addition, the terms of your contract regarding supplies should be made clear. “For example,” adds Jackson, “at ABE we never call customers soliciting toner orders.” The majority of ABE customers have chosen to take advantage of the terms of a toner-inclusive service contract, where service calls and supplies are included, and placed automatically via machine notification. Additionally, clients can place their own orders either via our online customer portal or by phone.
Your best bet? Trust your account executive and when in doubt, says Jackson, “Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call your rep to make sure an offer you received is legitimately from your service provider.”