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Toner Pirates:
How to Recognize and Avoid These Costly Scams

Avast, ye office managers! Companies around the globe have reported a familiar and fiscally damaging scam known as “toner piracy.” These modern-era business buccaneers have been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars bilked by means of counterfeit, worthless, or imaginary toner cartridges. In conjunction with the worldwide toner scarcity, due to the ongoing global chip shortage, the Toner Pirate Scams are in full swing. 

What Is a Toner Pirate?

A toner pirate will first seek to gain insider knowledge about your company’s supplies, either by researching online or, more commonly, placing a call and requesting the information. They frequently start conversations with friendly or intriguing questions such as, “We noticed you haven’t ordered toner in a while, so could we send some at a reduced cost?” or “Can you provide your copier ID, so we ensure we send the corrected cartridges? We have a limited-time special right now.”

The Results of the Scam

Once the pirates have enough information, they will send a seemingly legitimate invoice to the business. The company that pays ultimately receives only phony, empty, counterfeit, or incorrect toner cartridges if they receive anything at all. Many pirates simply disappear after the fraudulent invoices are paid.

Protect Your Business!

Your business can avoid these scams altogether with a healthy amount of skepticism—if a deal sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Toner cartridge production is highly controlled and thereby only provided by the manufacturers themselves. Any third-party claiming to have a great deal on slightly used or overstocked cartridges is trying to get you to walk the plank.

Train employees on how to handle calls from unknown providers. Never divulge equipment IDs (any legitimate vendor will already have this information). If pressed, request the caller to provide a quote in writing with an office phone number or physical address. Pirates won’t provide that information because they don’t have it. If threatened or simply in doubt, hang up the phone. Better yet, designate a single person as Supplies Manager.

You may always refuse a shipment you did not place, and if you suspect you have been a target of piracy, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

Worldwide Shortages Fueled The Scammer Operation

The global toner shortage has created a perfect storm for toner scammers. With demand for toner high and supply low, scammers have been able to prey on businesses and individuals who are desperate to get their hands on toner cartridges.

Scammers often pose as authorized dealers or representatives of major printer manufacturers. They may call businesses or send emails offering to sell toner cartridges at a discounted price. Once the victim agrees to purchase the toner, the scammer will either send a fake cartridge or no cartridge at all.

In some cases, scammers will even send a real cartridge, but it will be filled with counterfeit or low-quality toner. This can damage the printer and lead to expensive repairs.

The toner shortage is expected to continue for several more months. In the meantime, businesses and individuals should be on the lookout for toner scammers. Here are a few tips to help you avoid being scammed:

  • Only purchase toner from authorized dealers or representatives of major printer manufacturers.
  • Never give out personal or financial information over the phone or in an email.
  • Be suspicious of any offer that seems too good to be true.
  • If you are unsure about a toner offer, contact the printer manufacturer directly.

By following these tips, you can help protect yourself from toner scammers.

Here are some additional information about toner scammers:

  • Toner scammers often target businesses and individuals who are not familiar with the different types of toner cartridges.
  • Scammers may also target businesses that have a large number of printers.
  • Toner scammers often use high-pressure sales tactics to convince victims to buy toner cartridges.
  • Scammers may also offer to install the toner cartridges for the victim.
  • It is important to be aware of the signs of a toner scam. Some common signs include:
    • The offer is too good to be true.
    • The caller or email sender is not authorized to sell toner.
    • The caller or email sender asks for personal or financial information.
    • The caller or email sender refuses to provide a return policy.

If you think you may have been the victim of a toner scam, there are a few things you can do:

  • Do not pay the scammer.
  • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Contact your bank or credit card company to dispute the charge.
  • Change your passwords and security settings.
  • Be aware of the signs of a toner scam in the future.

The Best Defense Against Tone Pirates

Having a Managed Print Services provider ensures protection against swindles and schemes. As a trusted vendor, we’ll be your point of contact for all office supply refills, requests, and questions, and you’ll be safe to sail the seven seas of commerce once more.


Train employees on how to handle calls from unknown providers. Never divulge equipment IDs or personal information – your provider will already have that information on file. Questions? Call Altek today!

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