Coordinated Business Systems Blog

Scam Alert! 19 Ways to Avoid and Sink Toner Pirates

SCAM ALERT - don't get plundered by these toner pirates. Use these tips to protect your SMB from a common copier supply scam.Shiver me timbers, toner pirates are at it again. 

This sounds like a funny office joke or a Saturday Night Live skit with the “Makin' Copies” guy.

It's not.

A bunch of our customers are reporting that these scammers have been calling them.

Here's how the scam works, how to spot a toner pirate, and tips on how to avoid being boarded by these villainous dogs – make them walk the plank instead!

As silly as “toner pirates” might sound, make sure everyone in your office understands that this is a real thing and to NEVER order copier/printer supplies from an unsolicited phone call. How real? In 2016, 21 people were arrested in a $126 million telemarketing scam for “selling them (small business and charities) overpriced toner for printers and photocopiers.”

The Toner Pirate Scam

Toner pirates are telemarketing scammers. These scurvy scallywags will lie and say they are representing us (or Marco, Loffler or one of the other local copier dealers). Other times they'll claim to be from a national toner supplier.

The call sounds helpful and preys on everyone's desire for a “good deal.” Toner prices are about to go up – order now to save money before toner price rises.

You then receive low-grade toner cartridges and an invoice stating that you owe 3 times the price you would normally pay for them. If you return the cartridges, you'll be charged a 15% restocking fee!

These yellow-livered bamboozlers use different tactics to scam you:

  1. They pretend to be from your regular supplier or the copier manufacturer. The pitch is that price is increasing or they have a surplus and are selling at a discount.
  2. Unordered supplies. You'll receive an invoice for supplies you never ordered billed to the company address and an employee name they gathered from your website, LinkedIn, etc.
  3. Lucky winner! These bilge-sucking barnacles will entice someone in your office with a “free gift” in return for telling them what supplies you use. They'll then send the merchandise (also overpriced in addition to being unordered) with an invoice to that employee's name. The scam is that you think you have to pay the invoice.
  4. Invoices galore. They keep sending invoices with “past due” and threats of legal action or turning you over to a collection agency until you send payment.

10 Ways to Spot a Toner Pirate

  1. The company name is intended to sound like a government agency or the caller says they are affiliated with a company name that is similar to your own supplier's name.
  2. You must act NOW! Either immediately or that day.
  3. The caller acts like they've done business with you before.
  4. Unwilling to send prices in writing.
  5. Unwilling to give you references.
  6. Caller asks for your copier, fax, or printer model number.
  7. Caller asks for the serial number of your copier, fax, or printer.
  8. Refuses to give you an actual dollar amount.
  9. Offer of a free gift for ordering.
  10. The caller is often located out of state and won't give you an exact address.

Send Them to Davey Jones' Locker

Here are steps to avoid being scammed by these peg-legged, swag bellied sea rats:

  1. Train all employees to not buy supplies from an unsolicited call. Refer all such calls to the one person in charge of ordering office supplies.
  2. Place one person in charge of ordering office supplies.
  3. Don't provide office details over the phone. Toner pirates will call to collect small bits of information to sound knowledgeable on a later call. For instance, they'll ask:
    • Who your toner supplier is
    • What model of printers you have
    • Who's in charge of purchasing office supplies
  4. Ask for details only you and your supply vendor would know. Keep your account number next to your phone – if someone calls and says they are affiliated with Coordinated, ask them for your account number. Assuming everyone in your office has been good about following step number 3 above, they won't have that information. To be doubly sure, ask for the date of your most recent order. The answer is usually a swift hangup.
  5. Hang up. If you ever receive a phone call and it feels suspicious or you're pressured to act fast, hang up and call your supply vendor. The same goes for emails, contact your supply vendor immediately.

It's a gift. You are not legally obligated to pay for goods you didn't order. If you do receive supplies:

  1. don't pay
  2. don't return it
  3. treat it as a gift

There you have it. Everything you need to know to avoid being scammed and to sink every toner pirate's ship. 

One last thing, if you're feeling particularly annoyed, keep a whistle or air horn and feel free to use either when toner pirates are trying to board your business.

If you are a Coordinated customer and believe you've been called by one of these pirates, get their number and tell them you'll call them back. Then call our Supply Department at 952-894-9460 to verify.

If you think you've been scammed by one of these keel-hauled parrot lovers, report the incident to:

  • Office of the Attorney General
    • 445 Minnesota Street
    • 14th Floor
    • St. Paul, MN 55101-2128
    • 651-296-3353
  • Business Technology Association
    • Member Services Department
    • 12411 Wornall Rd.
    • Kansas City, MO 64145
    • 816-941-3100

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