We’ve all been schooled to be wary of scammers trying to get access to our bank or credit card details over the phone or email.

But it’s not just in our personal lives that we need to keep an eye out, but in the business world as well.

The toner phoner scam has been around for years, but it’s recently undergone a massive resurgence, with businesses small and large complaining of being pressured into buying overpriced toner supplies or being billed for supplies that they never ordered in the first place.

How it works

For toner phoners, printer and toner ink supplies have two things in their favour: they’re relatively low-cost, and they regularly need to be replaced.

This means that unlike larger tech-related purchases such as computers or printing equipment, toner purchases can easily fly under the radar. It’s a shady business, but a lucrative one.

Scammers will typically find the names and contact details of key staff members online, and will call up offering a supposedly discounted rate on ink and toner products – sometimes under the guise of being the company’s usual toner provider.

Hard-sell tactics are used to encourage the staff member to place an order over the phone – and in some cases, official-looking order forms or invoices are sent via fax or email.

The idea is to pressure staff members into making a purchase on the spot – so when it comes time to ask questions it’s too late.

The many faces of the toner phoner scam

The toner phoner scam has evolved into a few different formats over the years, some of which are easier to deal with than others.

Here are the main ones you might encounter:

  • A caller pretending to be your supplier – or a competitor – and hoping that you’ll blindly place an order without examining costs or quantities.
  • A caller offering free or supposedly discounted toner items – which will often later arrive with unordered items and a hefty invoice.
  • A caller asking for personnel and billing information so that they can invoice your company for either for unordered goods that you’ll never receive, or for items that end up being overpriced and unwanted.
  • A caller chasing up supposedly unpaid invoices and pressuring you for immediate payment.
  • Official-looking faxes or emails containing invoices or order forms.

Avoid being a victim

Avoid the hassle associated with toner phoner scammers by being savvy – and ensuring that your staff are as well.

One of the easiest ways to avoid being ripped off by these scams is to make sure that your staff are aware of the practice and know how to deal with a scammer if they receive a suspicious call. This is particularly important for new or temporary staff, and those in charge of stationery or technology orders.

Offer training to help your staff recognize scam calls, to end such calls quickly without giving out any information about your equipment or organization, and to resist hard-sell tactics, including those relating to allegedly unpaid accounts.

And importantly, keep track of any actual ink or toner purchases by making sure that your accounts are up to date. This way if a toner package shows up at your office door you’ll know whether it’s a product that you’ve legitimately ordered and paid for.

But the best way to ensure that you’re never subject to a toner phoner scam? Choose a toner supplier you trust and only order your supplies through them.

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