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Steering Clear of Toner Pirates and Office Supply Scammers

Local, state, and federal agencies have been aware of "Toner Pirates" for decades. The deceiving criminals target small to mid-sized business, charities, churches and other local organizations.

Their ploy wages on the hope that your employees are unaware and untrained on how to stay on guard against these thieves. The scammers goal is to get specific equipment information out of the unsuspecting receptionist, gatekeeper, or office manager, usually by offering "free" supplies.

Once the scammer has received the information they need, the supposedly “free” supplies (usually cheap supplies) will arrive at the organization, followed by an outrageous invoice for said supplies.

Sometimes an organization pays the bill, due to a lack of clarity about approved vendors and purchasing protocol. Other times, the scammers resort to high-pressure tactics and litigation threats to force payment on fraudulent orders. It’s sleazy business, but you can be prepared if a Toner Pirate contacts your organization.

The FTC is On Your Side

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.

First of all, 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 on it, even if you used the items before you realized they were unordered. A word of advice on the subject: DON’T use unordered, “free” toner or supplies. The scammers rarely send authentic OEM merchandise. They send cheap junk that isn’t good for your machines.​

Defense Mechanisms

Your #1 best defense against all this scam nonsense is to train your staff to be on-guard.

Hold a brief staff meeting to go over the red flags that often accompany a scam. Maybe share this blog with them before the meeting to bring everyone up to speed.

Advise your crew that these telemarketers come off as very friendly. They’ll use words like:

  • Free

  • Urgent

  • Limited Time

  • Act Now

  • Upcoming Price Increase

  • Bulk Deal

  • Zero Cost

If asked, they won't give you references, or share a business address, or offer to give you any price quotes in writing. Don’t fall for any of it! Keep everyone abreast of who your APPROVED supply vendors are, and if someone calls who’s not on the list, just hang up.

Check the Mail

If an invoice comes in that seems a bit out-of-the-ordinary, investigate it. Don’t pay a dime if the bill is for supplies that your organization didn’t authorize. And if some scammer tries to shame or pressure you into paying for unordered items, report them to the FTC or your State Attorney General. Inform the bully that you know what they’re up to, and you won’t be pushed around.

Now let’s say the mail comes to your organization and it includes printer toner or other office supplies that seem out-of-sort. Don’t open the box and use the products. Contact the appropriate authorities, including:

  • The U.S. Postal Service -

  • The Better Business Bureau -

If you have received suspicious or out of the ordinary phone calls or invoices related to equipment provided by The Office People, please contact our Service Department immediately. We are committed to helping our customers steer clear of "Toner Pirates".

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