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Don't Be Plundered By Toner Pirates

September 19th, 2016 | 5 min. read

By Gary Harouff

Protect your treasure (toner) and don't be plundered by toner pirates!

Ahoy there, me hearties. It's talk like a pirate day. In honor of the day (and to have an excuse to speak like a scurvy dog), we thought it'd be a good idea to warn ye about the Blackbeards, Captain Kidds, and Jean Lafittes of today who roam the high seas of office scams.

Toner Pirates – Very Real

“Toner Pirates” (also paper pirates or toner phoners) sounds like a bad office joke (as bad as the movie Ice Pirates). However, these pirates are very real. The image below is from a bust of a toner and copier telemarketing scam.

Image from a $126 million bust of a toner and copier telemarketing scam.

It's copier and toner, how much could they have plundered, you could be thinking. How's $126 million sound? Here's a snippet from the news story:

“A suspected $126 million telemarketing scheme led authorities Tuesday morning to arrest 21 people accused of defrauding small businesses and charities by selling them overpriced toner for printers and photocopiers.

Those taken into custody by the federal agents and Huntington Beach police officers were accused in an indictment of targeting more than 50,000 victims by posing as their regular toner-products supplier but upping their prices by as much as 10 times the regular retail price.”

It does happen and can happen to you if you're not careful.

Sail Ho! Anatomy of a Scam

Our pirates' weapon of choice is the telephone and your employees' desire to get a good deal for the company.

Most often, your front desk or IT person will get a call. The person will ask, sometimes even politely, “Hi, this is Mary, I need the model number off of the front of your copier.” They'll have some excuse for needing this information. Two of the most common are:

  1. Updating records
  2. They need to send an updated manual for the machine

Or, they'll offer a seemingly great deal on toner and other consumables and use high pressure tactics to get the person on the phone to say “yes.” 

One tip off that it's not a legitimate call is that the company name will be blocked.

Regardless of the approach, a few days later, a box arrives with overpriced and poor quality with your new “toner booty.” You'll receive an invoice and a demand that you pay them immediately. 

Too many companies fall for this and pay the overpriced invoice for supplies they didn't order, need, or want.


No Quarter! Make 'Em Walk the Plank

Well, shave my belly with a rusty razor! What's the best way to raise sail and outrace these rotten timbered blaggards? The most important one is to tell everyone in your office that this is really a problem and to NEVER give out details over the phone unless you're 100% sure you're talking to AIS, your copier supplier. 

Here are a few other tips for dealing with these swag-bellied hooligans:

  1. Hang up. If they won't give you a name – or give you a name you don't recognize – or feel pressured (or we've just sent you a box of new toner); don't be polite, send 'em to Davy Jones's locker with a click.
  2. Assign only one person in your office to handle supplies. Make it office policy that all supplies go through that person. You'll be amazed at how quickly those barnacle-bottomed swine hang up on you when you try to direct them to the person that handles orders.
  3. Ask them which copier they're referencing – this usually leads to a hang up. Ask them for the Equipment ID associated with your device. All AIS-serviced devices have an AIS sticker on them with an ID#.
  4. Ask for a phone number so that the appropriate person can get back to them – this also usually ends in a hang up.
  5. It's your booty. Businesses don't need to return supplies they didn't order. The FTC has said that these can be considered “gifts.” Now, this isn't a gift like a gold doubloon or a parrot would be, but you don't have to give back the loot.
  6. If you're bored or taking a short break, taunt them. Make up a copier model number and see if they can find a match. One of the best one's I've seen is: 3AT 5HIT A55 H013. You can also just keep reading a random string of numbers and letters until they decide to hang up on you.
  7. Put them on hold. See how long they wait until they hang up.

Remember and share with everyone in your company, if it sounds too good to be true then it usually is.

If toner pirates do attempt to board you and plunder your bank account, report those lily-livered scoundrels to the Federal Trade Commission. Click on this link to report scammers.

All kidding aside, this is a serious scam that can put a serious dent in your bottom line – we get calls from clients all the time about these pirates. Be aware, follow the recommendations in this post, and sail free!


Visit our Office Copy Machine Ultimate Resource Page for additional info on supplies, and just about anything else copy machine related.

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I'll leave you with a song that's appropriate for today. And, if you want to talk like a pirate for today, check out this link:




Gary Harouff

As President and founder of AIS, I am passionate about growing our business and serving our customers. I'm proud that we are considered one of the fastest-growing companies in America. We have been named by Office Dealer magazine the elite dealer of the year and most recently by ENX Magazine as an elite dealer for 2017. Our partnership with Kyocera is strong and we have been an elite dealer for them. We recently became an authorized dealer of Xerox in their Document Technology Partner Program. Before founding AIS, I was President of Toshiba Business Solutions. I enjoy staying active, both physically and professionally. Charitable endeavors include: The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Safe House, Christian Children’s Fund as well as other faith-based charities.