Toner Pirates

Published by Sam Stone

Pay Me Now, Receive it Never

Modern day pirates are real, and they have their sites set on your office equipment.

I remember taking a call from a customer one afternoon. The voice on the other end sounded frantic as she asked if we ever buy back toners? It sparked my curiosity to ask for more information. She explained someone called her from “the copier company,” and her toner would be discontinued, and she should buy now to protect her investment. What she got was a knockoff brand toner. As the story continued, she explained they shipped her 36 bottles of toner, and the invoice totaled $14,000. This toner’s retail price is $129.00 per bottle, and she was charged three times retail. On a positive note, the toner pirates did ship for free. To add insult to this story, toner is included in her service agreement for no additional charge.

Panic calls for help after the fact.

While the number of calls from our clients questioning an invoice they received for toner or cartridges for their office copiers or printers is down, they still exist. The invoices look authentic; some include the buyer’s name, email, and phone number. They usually include some discount for being a “valued customer” or “electronic payment” in advance. The problem is they’re usually because of a fraudulent or under-handed scam.

In some situations, like the one above, the toners can cost more than 3x the toner’s actual cost from the authorized dealer. And, the toners we’ve seen are always generic brands, or worse, a cheap knock-off counterfeit cartridge. These counterfeits will leak and cause poor print quality. Not what you’re looking for when your company’s image is on the line.

When we’re alerted by a client of a possible toner scam, we always inform them, you aren’t legally obligated to pay for goods and services you didn’t order.

Let’s walk through the process and how these professional thieves can dup even the best-trained office staff.

They are professionals!

It’s important to understand this is how they make their money. The more professional the scammers are, the more successful they are at getting your money. Like every other business, some are poor, some good and some great.

Never underestimate a crook.

They know what we all know…

Copier and printer supplies need to be replenished routinely, which means there’s plenty of bait in the ocean. In almost every case, scammers will gather information about your office equipment fleet under false pretenses by asking questions. Later using this information to create an invoice for products being shipped to your office.

We have a “Gatekeeper” to prevent this from happening.

We hear this one a lot, and that’s great news. I’m sure it works for honest salespeople calling to peddle their services and goods. But, go back to the heading above: They are professionals! Toner Pirates usually call at the changing of the guards.

  • They know to call at lunchtime, early morning, or late afternoon.
  • They’ll use your automated voice messaging to get the names of people in your organization.
  • Or, use your website to place a name with the face.

Here is an example of what a call may sound like:

Office: Good morning; thank you for calling Acme Law. This is Amy; how may I direct your call?

Pirate: Hey, Amy. My name is Robbie, and I’m with your copier company. Who is in charge of purchasing the toner for your copier?

Office: Mary Anderson handles our copiers and printers.

Pirate: Thanks; I’m just updating my contact information so we can serve you better. Have a great day.

Easy, right? No threat in this call.

The scammer never attempted to by-pass the gatekeeper. He’s a professional. Everyone goes on their way, and Amy never gives it another thought. Except, Amy just gave Robbie (not his real name) all the information he needs.

Fast-forward One Week: Robbie calls at lunchtime.

Office: Good afternoon; thank you for calling Acme Law. This is Sharon; how may I direct your call?

Pirate: Hey Sharon. This is Robbie, and I’m with your copier company. Mary asked me to gather some information for a supply order we’re shipping to you. She said you’re out of a couple of things, and I want to make sure we have everything correct. Can you verify a couple of things for me? I usually talk with Amy, but it’s nothing too difficult.

MOMENT OF TRUTH: Will Sharon help or tell Robbie to call back?

Office: Yeah, if it’s not to difficult I can help. What do you need?

Pirate: Can you verify the make and model of the copier for me? It’s on the front of the machine.

What follows next is a criminal act and a thing of beauty, all rolled in together. Acme will receive an invoice for toner, for the copier make and model they have, with the name of all the important players. It will usually be opened at the receptionist desk and forwarded to accounting to be paid for. It’s that easy. THE END!

But wait, there’s more!

The Toner Pirates never shipped the toner! That’s correct; I said the Pirates never shipped the toner. Sometimes they put terms on their invoice like, “Supplies are warehoused until delivery is requested.” Meaning you have to call for them to ship you the toner. Do you want to hear something hilarious? Their number usually doesn’t work.

How to Identify a Pirate

  • Often they seem to be your best friend but know very little about your account
  • They want to verify your equipment make and model
  • When asked questions, they seem vague about offering details
  • They usually refuse to give their number for you to call them back

How to Avoid Being Snared by the Toner Pirates

  • Train your employees never to buy supplies from unsolicited callers.
  • Never give out the name of the person in charge of ordering. Get the callers’ names and let them know you will forward it to the correct person within your office who handles that.
  • Assign one person to be in charge of ordering office toners for the copiers and printers
  • NEVER give out details about your office equipment. Your current vendor has that information and will never ask for it.
  • Never pay an invoice without verifying you received the product.
  • If you get a call from someone who seems pushy or is pressuring you, hang up. You control the outcome of the situation.

Managed Print Services Changes the Game

We always pull for the underdog in the movies, whether it’s a skinny kid making the football team or the average looking guy winning the beautiful woman’s heart. Your office can be empowered to bet these pirates at their own game when you have an MPS account with Stone’s. Our MPS clients enjoy the benefits of a concierge service for their office equipment. From copiers to printers and display boards to video conferencing, our all-included service approach eliminates the need to shop for equipment or supplies.

Let us perform a free workflow analysis for your office today so you can take this burden off your table and focus on the work you’re paid to do.


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Our staff is standing by and ready to help!

  • Call: (804) 288-9000
  • Email: info@stonesoffice.com

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