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 user 2008-10-16 at 11:26:22 am Views: 40
  • #20687
    The toner phoner scam
    Know your rights when it comes to office supply fraud
    wrote to me about an old scam that appears to be on the rise. “I’ve
    been getting numerous calls from ‘toner-phoners’ lately,” he explains.
    “You know, those shady outfits that sell toner cartridges. We have had
    to train anyone that could possibly answer the phones to watch out for
    these callers. The callers ask the model of our copier so that they can
    ‘update their records.’ Always their phone numbers come in as private.”

    scam has been around for years for one good reason: It’s profitable.
    According to the FTC, “Office supply fraud costs its victims — large
    and small businesses, as well as schools, government agencies, and
    nonprofit institutions — an estimated $200 million per year.” And the
    scammers usually work just as Joey describes. The phone calls are
    essentially fishing for a weak link: a temp, or someone new who will
    give up a name the scammer can put on an invoice or, even better, agree
    to the shipment. According to — the site the FTC built to
    educated businesses about this fraud — the scams go by several
    charming names.

    In the Phony-Invoice Scam, the caller wants the
    name and address of an employee so that your organization can be
    shipped and billed for unordered goods or services.

    Pretender pretends to be your regular supplier. By convincing you that
    the goods and prices are the same as you have ordered in the past, the
    scammer hopes you won’t bring up prices, quantities, or brands but
    simply agree to a reorder.

    The Gift-Horse Scam tricks an
    employee into accepting a gift — a free promotional item — with a
    passing reference to merchandise or services. You may receive the gift,
    but you will also get overpriced, unordered merchandise and an invoice
    for the same. The hope is that your organization will think that the
    employee who accepted the gift goofed and you will accept the blame and
    pay the invoice.

    The real scam starts, though, with the
    invoices. In fact, collection is where the scammer spends the bulk of
    his energy. He might send many invoices, some stamped “past due.” He
    might create a bogus collection agency to hound you, and he may even
    threaten legal action. It is not easier to simply pay these bills,
    though — even if the scammer negotiates a lower price, which he might.
    Paying will likely get you targeted for additional scams. Though the
    scammer may appear to give up and accept return of the goods, he will
    likely try to charge a restocking fee.

    The FTC clearly states,
    “If you receive supplies or bills for services you didn’t order, you
    don’t have to pay, and you don’t have to return the unordered
    merchandise. You may treat unordered merchandise as a gift.”

    Joey said the callers were annoying but wondered, “Aren’t these practices illegal?” Yes!

    to, “The FTC attacks office supply fraud via the Telemarketing
    Sales Rule and by employing its broad authority under Section 5 of the
    FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive practices. The Commission
    typically seeks temporary relief, such as asset freezes, to halt the
    practice and try to reimburse the victims.”

    The key to surviving
    this scam is to know your rights and train your employees. If you
    receive goods you didn’t order, don’t pay for them. They are a gift. If
    the scammer sends you an invoice for those goods, that’s illegal.
    Report it. And to avoid accidentally falling for this scam, assign a
    designated buyer in your company. The buyer should send a copy of every
    purchase order to their accounts payable department and keep blank
    order forms secure. Make sure you actually ordered any goods that show
    up before you accept them — or pay for them. And encourage your staff
    to practice saying no to telemarketers. Provide them with a script.
    Report any scams you encounter to the FTC or by phone at 800-382-4357.
    If you are fired up, report the scammer to the Better Business Bureau
    in your area to alert other potential victims as well.