by Rod Smith
The ink and toner scammers are at it again, and the best way to prevent these schemes is to be better informed on how they work. The scammers are very diligent, conducting a lot of research – it’s sad to think that they waste so much time on these schemes. In some instances, they’ve been known to target new and/or temporary employees. They often scan the web for employment ads, looking for open positions that feature key responsibilities that are vulnerable to their schemes: such as individuals that order office supplies, or those that establish vendor accounts and relations. They’ve also been known to contact office managers or a receptionist and state that they have questions about an outstanding invoice and need to find out who they need to speak to in order to get a contact name. (By the way, this should already be a red flag. Representatives should know who they are dealing with and shouldn’t have to call to get that information).
These fraudsters have many tactics that they use in their attempt to carry out these schemes. One person recently shared that a scammer called her and introduced himself as the new field rep for the copier contract and said he was conducting an audit of their machines and needed to verify the serial numbers. He asked the receptionist to obtain the numbers for him. The fraudster assured her that the process would only take a few minutes and that she would be sent a Starbucks gift card for her time. Once the fraudster had the numbers, he sent the receptionist a deceptive and fraudulent contract, which he asked her to again verify the machine numbers, sign the document in agreement and upload it into his system. He informed her that once she completed this task, the digital Starbuck card would be ready. What she didn’t know was that this “verification” was an attempt to con the person into signing a new contract to purchase overpriced supplies and services – three times the amount of their regular costs.
A second scheme that I’ve heard recently targeted a new hire. In this instance, the fraudster called the company and asked for Chris, but the new hire shared that Chris no longer worked there. As I mentioned above, the fraudsters had done their research and knew that Chris’s vacant position had been posted for a month prior to their call and that the position ordered office supplies.The fraudster told the new hire that she was calling about an outstanding invoice that Chris was supposed to have paid and placated the new hire by saying it was probably a simple mistake of oversight due to the transition in the job. The fraudster assured the new hire she would work with him on the payment terms and waive the late fee if he would go ahead and pay the invoice by card. The new employee, who was conscientious, said he would be glad to comply but needed to research the invoice first. The fraudster’s manner immediately changed into a hardline tone. She asserted that the account was several months past due and it was going to be turned over to collections if not immediately paid and that penalties and interest would be charged. To further turn up the heat, the fraudster noted the contract was in jeopardy and that the company would demand the full amount of the copier price or they would come and repossess the machine if the bill were not immediately paid. When the new hire still hesitated, the fraudster said that once she talked with a company rep about the unpaid invoice and notified her organization of the delinquency, an additional fee of $250 would be charged for breach of contract and for breaking the agreed upon lease terms. She then had the audacity to remind the new employee that “the call was being monitored for quality assurance”. Fortunately, the scam didn’t work as the new employee was a seasoned veteran and had been informed of these scams before. The collection calls did continue for several weeks, but finally stopped after the new employee’s legal department got involved.
There are so many other ways that these fraudsters attempt to operate these scams: I’ve included a few more examples in published stories in this month’s Internal Controls newsletter. Just being aware and better prepared will help you detect these scams and report them.