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ID Theft
Summer's A Hot Time For Scams Against Businesses
For Immediate Release
The end of summer is a prime time for "toner-phoner" and "office supply" scam artists to victimize businesses. Key employees are likely to be on vacation, and temporary staff can be vulnerable to smooth-talking salesmen offering unsolicited merchandise.

Such salesmen typically contact a non-management employee and offer them "incentives/gifts" for purchasing merchandise from them. The products that are offered may include brooms, light bulbs, copier paper, silicone spray and other items. The items are shipped in large quantities and at an inflated price. If the business refuses to authorize payment of the invoice, the salesperson contacts the employee who received an "incentive" for the purchase, and aggressively demands payment by threatening to reveal the "gift" that they accepted.

Members of the Better Business Bureau in Abilene, Texas report being called by sales people trying to trick them into buying inferior, over-priced toners for their office copiers. First, the callers obtain from untrained receptionists the type of copier machine the office uses. They next contact a non-management employee and state that they are from a well-known copier company. They reveal that the price of toner is about to jump considerably and offer immediate delivery of bargain-priced toner. The toner that arrives is unlikely to be either high quality or a name brand.

Businesses are advised to train employees or volunteers that answer the telephones, especially new ones or temporary employees, not to authorize the ordering of any office supplies and not to schedule equipment maintenance or supports services. Suggest they respond to unsolicited offers by stating, "I am not authorized to order anything. You will have to speak to the person in charge of ordering supplies and get a purchase order."

It is never advisable to respond to telephone offers from unknown businesses. Don't be pressured to make a quick decision on the telephone. Inform the caller that the company does not authorize any orders by telephone. Ask the seller to send you a catalog or merchandise list and advise him or her that you will call the BBB for a report on their company before making a purchasing decision.

If you are caught in one of these scams, call your local Better Business Bureau. Additional information on how to avoid frauds against your business appears in the BBB Business Advisory publications "Office Supply Schemes and Paper Pirates" and "Schemes Against Businesses."

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Reporters and journalists may contact Sheila Adkins, CBBB's Associate Director, Public Affairs, at or at 703.247.9312 to request an interview or additional information.

If you are a consumer who is seeking additional information, or need assistance with a complaint against a business, please contact your local BBB or visit the BBB web site (

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