Common Toner Scams, And How to Avoid Them


toner scamsToner scams are out there, and these so-called “toner pirates” are ruthless. This may sound like an exaggeration, but I hear about businesses getting taken by these scams all the time. Both large and small businesses are victims of these toner scams, and they’re being scammed out of significant sums of money.

Not to worry. Working in this business as long as I have, I’ve come across just about every toner scam in the book. I’ve learned how to spot a toner scam a mile away, and now I’m going to pass that advice on to you.

The best way to avoid toner scams is to learn how to recognize them in the first place. In this post I’ll go over some of the most common toner scams being used today, and give you some tips on how to avoid them.

How to Spot Toner Scams

The basic concept of any toner scam is to call a legitimate business and convince them to buy toner at inflated prices. It’s even worse when businesses targeted by these scams have service contracts that already covers the cost of any toner they might need.

There are several telltale signs that you’re dealing with a “toner phoner” on the other end of the line. Here are some warning signs:

Price of Toner is Going Up… Or is it?
Be wary if you get a call from anyone telling you the price of toner is about to go up. Following this, they will then go on to offer you the opportunity to buy toner at the old price for a limited time. This is when you should have your guard up.

If you agree to their offer, they will then proceed to send you toner along with an exorbitantly priced invoice. Of course, if you try to call to question the their invoice, their contact numbers will lead to voicemail or some kind of automated switchboard.

How to avoid this scam: Make it very clear you are not interested in their offer, and end the conversation before they have a chance to refute.

Keep Your Receptionist on Alert
Keep your receptionist and/or secretary informed of these toner scams, because sometimes they will become unsuspecting victims. Let them know to be wary of anyone who calls in asking for too much information about your office’s copier equipment.

For example, a scammer will call in and ask your receptionist for the name of the person who is in charge of office equipment. They will then go on to ask for things like the make and model of your copier, and may even be as specific as asking for a copy count.
After providing this information, the scammer will go on to send toner addressed to the individual you gave the name of. Again, this toner will come with an inflated invoice and the company will be impossible to contact over the phone. After a while, when you don’t pay the invoice, they may send a fake “collections agency” after you to bully you into paying.

How to avoid this scam: Tell your receptionist to contact you immediately if anyone calls in asking for information about your copier equipment.

General Tips for Avoiding Toner Scams

In addition to the specific tips illustrated above, here are some general tips for protecting yourself against any kind of toner scam that you may be confronted with:

• You have the right to refuse to pay for anything you did not explicitly order
• Assign designated buyers within your company
• Keep in mind that your real toner supplier will know all about your copier equipment without having to ask
• Check all invoices against purchase orders before issuing payment
• Report scams by filing a complaint with the FTC, contact the Consumer Response Center at

When in doubt, call your supply vendor. If you receive any call that you’re suspicious about, call your supplier and they can tell you whether or not it was a legitimate call.

If you suspect you may be a victim of a toner scam and/or you have some specific questions not answered in this post, please contact me directly.

Image Credit: Flickr User Widjaya Ivan

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