Toner Pirates, I know sounds crazy, but they are real and part of a telemarketing scam that has been around for over a decade. Just like the scam telemarketers that call everyday about our student loans and we owe the IRS $1,000.00 of dollars or your computer has a virus. Toner Pirates pray on business and their employees. Here is how those scurvy dog toner pirates scam works
Typical toner pirates will pretend to be your office supply partner or a replacement one. This creates the illusion of legitimacy and that answering their questions and placing an order is normal business.
If they get what they need, you will receive toner. In most cases it will be poor quality, contain less toner, and be outrageously overpriced. If used these inferior toner cartridge can damage your copiers and printers.
A smarter and experienced toner pirate will try calling several times with questions like
Who supplies your toner and office equipment, such as copiers and printers?
“I’m terribly sorry, but I’m calling from (Advanced Print Solutions) and I need to verify our records – we had some issues with our backup and lost some data. I know, embarrassing. Can you share the make and model of your copiers and printers with me so I can ensure they’re up-to-date?
Most employees, trying to be helpful, will answer.
Pirate 2: (calling a few days later): This is Blackbeard calling from Advanced Systems. We’ve just discovered that toner and associated supplies for [model number from previous call] will be doubling in price soon. We’d like to help you out by locking you in at the current lower price and ordering in advance.
Pirate 3: (calling later the same day/next day): This is Captain Jack Sparrow, thanks for your order. I’d like to confirm that your company is ordering [a bunch of stuff you don’t really need from a pretend supplier]. Thank you.
Remember – your legitimate equipment supplier (like us!) won’t ask any of these questions.
Pirates of the Telebean (pronounced like the movie)
Toner piracy is a telemarketing scam. They’ll pretend to be your office supply partner or a replacement one. This creates the illusion of legitimacy and that answering their questions and placing an order is normal business.
You will receive toner. It will be poor quality, contain less toner per cartridge than it should, and be outrageously overpriced. If used (don’t do that!), these inferior supplies can damage your copiers and printers.
The smarter and more well-organized toner pirates will place multiple calls to you. These calls will go something like this:
Pirate 1: Who supplies your toner and office equipment, such as copiers and printers?
Pirate 1 (a few days later): I’m terribly sorry, but I’m calling from Advanced Systems and I need to verify our records – we had some issues with our backup and lost some data. I know, embarrassing. Can you share the make and model of your copiers and printers with me so I can ensure they’re up-to-date.
Most employees, trying to be helpful, will answer.
If an employee questions the caller, they’re often deflected with an answer of:
- The pricing is the same as in the past
- Let me get back to you about providing an invoice number
- It’s been a while since we’ve supplied you, but we’ve recently begun again
So if a employee does reveal details about the copier or printer the toner pirates are about to board ship, this is what happens next
(((((((( calling from Advanced Print Systems. We’ve just discovered that toner and associated supplies for [model number from previous call] will be doubling in price soon. We’d like to help you out by locking you in at the current lower price and ordering in advance.
This is Captain Jack Sparrow, thanks for your order. I’d like to confirm that your company is ordering [a bunch of stuff you don’t really need from a pretend supplier]. Thank you.
The Fake Invoice
Another approach is for pirates to find the name and address of an employee in your office, maybe even one with real purchasing authority. They’ll then call to confirm an order for goods that your company never actually placed.
Before sending the invoice, the toner pirates will send the supplies. Often, the supplies will have been used by the time the invoice – complete with inflated pricing – arrives.
Don’t Be Embarrassed
Well intentioned employees are duped often enough for toner pirates to continue this noxious practice.
Confusion is their friend. Train your employees and follow a few common sense tips and you’ll out sail pirates and leave them in your wake.
- Don’t order toner unsolicited. Use our portal or contact us directly (410-766-0200). Train all customer-facing staff who regularly receive phone calls to never order toner, paper, etc. on the phone.
- Never answer a question about an incomplete order, saying that the accounting department lost a name. Ask for it in writing first or take down their name and number and have someone in your ordering department get back to them.
- If it feels weird or if you feel pressured, hang up and call us directly. We don’t push supplies you don’t need, so if you’re feeling pressured to buy toner or office equipment supplies – it’s not us! A few other giveaways:
A – The caller is not the salesperson you normally deal with – this can happen as people do get sick, go on vacation, or change jobs. If it does, get their number, call your dealership, and confirm the new person is legitimate.
B – The caller tries to avoid or refuses to give their phone number – a legitimate business will give you a phone number, toner pirates won’t.
C – There’s a time element – act now! – to the pitch.
- Ask them for your account number – which only the two of us have. When they hang up, pat yourself on the back for a well-placed cannon shot to their hull.
- Don’t answer questions about your copiers and printers over the phone. Our information is backed up, we don’t lose customer data.
- If merchandise arrives at your office without an invoice:
A – Simply refuse it or return to sender
B – If it makes it into your office, don’t open it
- Contact the authorities – or call us and we’ll do it. These scams costs businesses an estimated $200 million each year. Contacting these agencies will help wipe these pirates from the seven seas.
A – U. Postal Service – https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/contactus/filecomplaint.aspx
B – Better Business Bureau – http://www.bbb.org/iowa
C – Federal Trade Commission – https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#&panel1-1
We’ve had some fun with this post, but this is serious business. Toner pirates are scam artists intent on stealing your business booty (sorry, couldn’t help it).
You can also write a written report to the authorities mentioned above. Follow this link to find the address for your closest Better Business Bureau.
The Federal Trade Commission
Division of Marketing Practices
6th Street and Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20580
The United States Postal Service
P.O. Box 4140
Burbank, CA 91503
This information was provided by Innovative Office Solutions, an authorized office equipment dealer located in Glen Burnie, MD