Ahoy! Beware of Toner Pirates and Printer Phone Scams

Shiver me timbers, toner pirates are at it again. This sounds like a funny office joke or a Saturday Night Live skit with the “Makin’ Copies” guy. It’s not. A bunch of our customers are reporting that these scammers have been calling them.

As silly as “toner pirates” might sound, make sure everyone in your office understands that this is a real thing and to NEVER order copier/printer supplies from an unsolicited phone call. How real? In 2016, 21 people were arrested in a $126 million telemarketing scam for “selling them (small business and charities) overpriced toner for printers and photocopiers.”

The Toner Pirate Scam

Toner pirates are telemarketing scammers. These scurvy scallywags will lie and say they are representing us (Canon Solutions America or Canon Financial Services). Other times they’ll claim to be from a national toner supplier.

The call sounds helpful and preys on everyone’s desire for a “good deal.” Toner prices are about to go up – order now to save money before toner price rises.  

You then receive low-grade toner cartridges and an invoice stating that you owe 3 times the price you would normally pay for them. If you return the cartridges, you’ll be charged a 15% restocking fee!

These yellow-livered bamboozlers use different tactics to scam you:

  • They pretend to be from your regular supplier or the copier manufacturer. The pitch could be that price is increasing or they have a surplus and are selling at a discount or they need to send you a new manual for your copier.
  • Unordered supplies. You’ll receive an invoice for supplies you never ordered billed to the company address and an employee name they gathered from your website, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Lucky winner! These bilge-sucking barnacles will entice someone in your office with a “free gift” in return for telling them what supplies you use. They’ll then send the merchandise (also overpriced in addition to being unordered) with an invoice to that employee’s name. The scam is that you think you have to pay the invoice.
  • Invoices galore. They keep sending invoices with “past due” and threats of legal action or turning you over to a collection agency until you send payment.

10 Ways to Spot a Toner Pirate

  • The company name is intended to sound like a government agency or the caller says they are affiliated with a company name that is similar to your own supplier’s name.
  • You must act NOW! Either immediately or that day.
  • The caller acts like they’ve done business with you before.
  • Unwilling to send prices in writing.
  • Unwilling to give you references.
  • Caller asks for your copier, fax, or printer model number.
  • Caller asks for the serial number of your copier, fax, or printer.
  • Refuses to give you an actual dollar amount.
  • Offer of a free gift for ordering.
  • The caller is often located out of state and won’t give you an exact address.

Send Them to Davey Jones’ Locker

Here are steps to avoid being scammed by these peg-legged, swag bellied sea rats:

  • 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
  • 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

It’s a gift. You are not legally obligated to pay for goods you didn’t order. If you do receive supplies:

  1. don’t pay
  2. don’t return it
  3. treat it as a gift (but do not use it is may not be an OEM toner)

There you have it. Everything you need to know to avoid being scammed and to sink every toner pirate ship.