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Former GFC Managed IT Clients:

Secrets to Avoid Toner Pirates and Printer Phone Scams

Patrick Flesch

One of our Managed Print service customers received an invoice for toner cartridges from an IT services company. The invoice looked legitimate and offered a 10% discount for submitting an electronic payment. However, the fine print on the bill read, “Supplies are warehoused until delivery is requested.”

Translation: pay us for toner you will never see.

In this case, the customer’s entire printer fleet was managed by the Gordon Flesch Company, so it was instantly clear this was an attempt to defraud the customer.

Types of Printer Phone Scams

Unfortunately, there are all kinds of scam artists looking to defraud businesses of all sizes. One of the most underhanded types of scams we see is what we call the toner pirate.

In 2017, 21 people were arrested in a $126 million telemarketing scam for selling small businesses and charities overpriced toner. Another scam involved the seizure of 67,000 counterfeit toner cartridges in Nigeria in 2018.

Had the victims of these scams worked with a Managed Print provider that also managed their ink and toner needs, there would have been little question that the telemarketing scam was trying to defraud them.

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Printer supplies need to be replenished routinely, which makes toner refills an ideal target for scammers. Often, fraudsters will solicit information under false pretenses by conducting surveys or pretending they’re service technicians who need to get equipment information about your printers, such as model numbers and account numbers.

They’ll later use this information to send a legitimate-looking invoice that your accounts payable department will pay. Sometimes, you’ll receive an invoice along with a delivery of supplies so it looks like a genuine business transaction.

Scam artists might also offer to sell toner at a price that seems too good to be true. In many cases, it’s because the quoted price is for a single cartridge, but a large pack will be sent, bloating and padding the bill. Even worse, if the supplies are delivered, they’re usually cheap, counterfeit cartridges that leak, have clogged parts or simply don’t work with your machines.

Counterfeit printer cartridges is a real problem, accounting for around $3.5 billion in market value each year.

Printer Toner Phone Scam Invoice Example

To get a sense of how these swindlers work, look at the document below. This is a copy of an invoice sent to our client for an illegitimate transaction. As you can see, it looks like a typical invoice. It even came with a coupon for a $100 free gift card for the person who submits the payment as an added inducement.


“One great thing about having our Managed Print service is that is eliminates the possibility that we will get hit by a toner scheme or false invoice,” says Amos Cramer, the Help Desk Supervisor for Blanchard Valley Health System. “Even if we get an invoice that looks genuine, I know without checking that
it’s not legitimate.”

How to Avoid Printer Phone Scams

  • Here are several best practices that will help you avoid these and other print-related scam artists.
  • Train all employees to not buy supplies from unsolicited phone calls
  • Assign only one person to be in charge of ordering office supplies and refer all such calls to that person
  • Never provide details about your equipment over the phone — toner pirates will call to collect small bits of information that they can use to make future interactions seem authentic and valid
  • Do not tell strangers your copier serial number, make or model over the phone
  • Only do business with authorized dealers
  • Know the contact person for your supply and Managed Print service company
  • Never sign for and accept a shipment you did not order
  • Buyer beware — if an offer seems too good to be true, it is

    If you ever receive a phone call and it feels suspicious or you're pressured to act fast, hang up and call your regular supplier. Also, remember that you are not legally obligated to pay for goods you didn't order. If you do receive supplies or think you’re being scammed, contact your local Better Business Bureau.

    Also, remember that working with a Managed Print provider can eliminate this type of fraud. At the Gordon Flesch Company, we offer a single point of contact for ordering supplies, service calls and paying your bills. Reach out to us today for a no-cost, no-obligation assessment of your print environment, and check out the free guide below to learn more about what you can expect with a Managed Print program.

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