Unfortunately, con artists are coming up with new schemes every day and are always on the lookout for new ways to scam businesses. One of the latest scams involves toner pirates. 

In this type of scam their goal is simple: to deceive and mislead your employees into buying overpriced toner for your printers and copiers. Their underhand tactics are costing businesses across America thousands of dollars.

They position themselves the same way as legitimate businesses do. They pretend to be a representative from your printer provider or even a copier manufacturer, and claim that they have a “special” offer or available “for a limited time only”. They could even have the model and the serial number of your copier or printer (information they may have gathered by tricking someone in your organization to share these numbers in exchange for the latest user manual or some other perk associated with your printer or copier). 

So how do you ensure it’s the toner pirates who end up walking the plank, and not your business that foots the bill?  Below, we take a look at how the toner pirates work and the steps you can take to ensure your business is not their next victim. 

How Toner Pirate Scam Works

Step 1: The Call

It usually starts with an unsolicited telephone call to verify an order you’ve made or to confirm the make and model of your printer or copier. If the employee in your business who takes this call isn’t familiar with the arrangements you have with your current copier vendor, they could easily give out this vital information to the scammers. 

Step 2: The Invoice

If the scammers manage to get the information they need, they’ll create a professional-looking invoice and send it directly to your accounts payable department. The toner price on the invoice will be four to five times higher than usual. To make themselves look even more legitimate, the invoice may arrive with the delivery of toner supplies. However, these supplies won’t be of high quality. They’ll be cheap or fake toner cartridges, half-full at best, that could leak or not even be compatible with your equipment at all. 

Step 3: The follow-up

If your accounts payable department fails to pay the first invoice, the toner pirates are unlikely to sail off into the sun looking for their next target. Usually, they’ll keep on sending invoices with ‘Payment Due’ demands and warnings that they’ll pursue legal action or hand over your case to debt collectors until they get your money. All empty threats of course, but convincing enough to trick those not ‘in the know’ into settling the invoice. 

How To Protect Your Business From Toner Pirate Scam

There are several ways you can protect your business from toner pirates:

  1. You should be very cautious if you receive an unsolicited call and the person on the other end (who claims to be a legitimate supplier):
  • can’t or won’t give you a precise price quote for the cost of the toners
  • asks you to verify your printer or copier model number
  • requests your printer or copier serial number
  • wants information about your company, such as your business address

Remember, your legitimate office equipment vendor will have all this information.

  1. Ask questions. A great way to spot a scam and stop it in its tracks is to ask an unsolicited caller for a call-back number. The line will usually go dead in seconds. You’ll likely get the same response if you ask them for their business address.
  2.  Educate your team. Ensure that everyone in your team who’s likely to answer the phones is aware of scammers and the way they operate. Advise your employees not to order toner supplies during unsolicited calls and definitely don’t give out information about the models or serial numbers of your equipment. Also, your accounts payable department should be on alert for invoices coming in from businesses other than your regular vendors.
  3. Assign one employee to manage all printer and copier responsibilities. Make someone in your organization solely responsible for all supplies orders and issues related to your office printers and copiers. If they’re not available to take the call, other employees can take a message.
  4. If you receive an invoice from someone other than your current vendor, contact your office equipment provider before remitting payment.
  5. If you are a KBA Document Solutions customer and believe you’ve been called by toner pirate, get their number and tell them you’ll call them back. Then call at 866.536.0050 or email our Supply Department to verify: [email protected]