Ahoy Matey, What's a Toner Pirate?

As long as there have been products and services, there have been scams. Email scams, pyramid schemes, phony contests, just about every aspect of life and business has a scam of sorts tied to it. In the world of office supplies, our scam artists are notoriously referred to as toner pirates. Just like the real pirates, these guys are after your gold! 

What's a Toner Pirate?

Toner pirates are scam artists that pretend to be an authorized employee with your regular supply partner and try to get you to place an order for toner over the phone. They try and make the call seem like they're doing you a favor by looking out for your business by offering a good deal on toner. These scammers try and use scare tactics about how the average price of toner is about to go up if you don't order now, or other variations of lies to make the call sound urgent and in need of immediate action on the sale.

Toner pirates prey on unsuspecting employees who without thinking twice go through with placing an order. Many times, the employees that place the order with the scammers innocently enough thinking they're helping out by ordering more toner at a discounted price. They just happened to be the unlucky person who answered the phone when the pirate called.

Through research and seeking information from employees, toner pirates can find an in with the company they are trying to scam. By knowing details about your business and your machines, a scam can be tailored to match your specific needs and seem legitimate. Toner pirates use their scamming skills to gain your trust, and before you know it you've been duped.

Once the order arrives, victims receive low-grade toner cartridges and an invoice with a higher than normal price tag! Sadly, the scam doesn't stop after delivery. Toner pirates won't accept returned merchandise, regardless of the complaints of dissatisfaction. They claim that it's the same toner that you've always received and there is no issue. This tactic can lead to the victim accepting that maybe they just got a bad batch of their regular toner and leaves them feeling obligated to pay the invoice.

Toner pirates are a very real issue that businesses are facing. In 2016, 21 toner pirates were indicted on a long-running scam that over time had collected more than $126 million from victims! The jury believes that the toner pirates attempted to defraud more than 50,000 people over the course of their scamming operation.

How to Avoid Being Scammed by a Toner Pirate

One of the best things you can do to avoid a toner scam is to train your receptionist and other administrative personnel to become critical consumers. Here are a few tips to help you protect your office treasures!

  • Don't provide details over the phone. Each little bit of information given to a toner pirate can help them to sound more legitimate when they call back to execute the scam. They're persistent.
  • Tell employees not to purchase supplies from any unsolicited callers.
  • Ask for details about your account that only your actual vendor would know. Ask for the account number or date of your last purchase, something that only you and your vendor would know.
  • Does the call feel suspicious? Hang up. It's always best to follow your gut when you're feeling pressured or that the call has taken an inappropriate turn.

What To Do If You've Already Been Caught By A Toner Pirate:

  • Don't use the toner once you've received it. On one hand, the quality will more than likely be extremely poor. On the other hand, the toner supplied can damage your machine. If possible, don't even accept the shipment.
  • If you receive a bill for supplies you didn't order, don't pay. It is against the law for a seller to send you a bill for anything that you did not order. If you think you are the victim of a toner scam, let your billing department know so they can be aware of the issue too. Another avenue that you may take is to contact your local Better Business Bureau.

Working with a provider that you know and trust is another added step in protecting your business from those pesky toner pirates. At SumnerOne, we want to help your business get control of its print environment, not to just keep the pirates at bay, but to help you feel more efficient too! Give us a call today to learn more about how we help local businesses with Managed Print Services.


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Originally published August 14, 2018, updated April 1, 2019


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