In the realm of cybersecurity threats, the focus often falls on protecting against sophisticated online attacks like ransomware and phishing schemes.

However, there’s a classic scam that predates the digital age and continues
to prey on unsuspecting organizations: the printer toner scam.

While it may not garner the same level of attention as high-tech cybercrimes, the impact of falling victim to these toner pirates can be significant, as evidenced by recent cases involving millions of dollars in losses.

Imagine this scenario: the phone rings in a bustling office, and a friendly voice on the other end claims to be from a reputable office supply company.

They offer unbeatable discounts or even free toner supplies, but there’s a catch — they need to verify the printer details to ensure accurate delivery.

Sounds tempting, right?

But here’s the catch:
if the organization falls for the ruse and provides the information, they may end up with subpar products or inflated invoices for supplies they never ordered or received.

Here’s a bit of good news! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is aware of these pirates and has announced different settlements against companies that send businesses unordered office supplies and follow up with invoices the businesses don’t owe. The FTC’s stipulated orders against the fictitious office supply companies include violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Unordered Merchandise Statute.

The precedent provides future scam victims with certain protections. First, if you receive unordered merchandise, it’s yours. The law says you don’t have to return it, and the scammer can’t legally collect it, even if you used the items before you realized they were unordered.

However, take it from me — NEVER use
unordered, “free” toner or supplies.

Scammers rarely send authentic OEM merchandise. They send cheap junk that isn’t good for your machines and could void any existing service contracts or warranties.

So, how can you protect your organization from falling victim to these toner pirates?

The first line of defense is awareness. Educate your staff about common scam tactics and red flags to watch out for, such as:

    • High-pressure sales tactics
    • Offers that seem too good to be true
    • Urgency or limited time offers
    • Requests for sensitive information that a legitimate vendor should already have

Encourage skepticism and empower your team to ask questions, request written quotes, and verify the legitimacy of callers claiming to be from office supply companies.

Beyond awareness, there are practical steps you can take to defend against office supply scams:

     1. Staff Training: Invest in comprehensive training programs to equip your employees with the knowledge and skills to identify and thwart scams.

     2. Designate a Point of Contact: Appoint a specific staff member with a keen eye for scams to handle suspicious calls and inquiries.

     3. Verify Invoices: Scrutinize all invoices, especially those for supplies that weren’t authorized. Don’t hesitate to question or investigate any discrepancies.

     4. Contact Authorities: If you suspect fraudulent activity, DO NOT PAY THEM! Instead, contact the appropriate authorities:

In the age of digital threats, it’s essential not to overlook the more traditional avenues of deception, such as the printer toner scam.

By staying vigilant, educating your team, and implementing robust safeguards, you can protect your organization from falling victim to office supply fraud.

Remember, when it comes to dealing with toner pirates, knowledge and awareness are your best weapons.

“The sooner these scammers are caught and punished, the safer your organization and others will be from office supply fraud.”