"Toner Pirates": Don’t Get Scammed By Fraudulent Printer Ink Sellers

Managed Print

Managing office expenses and equipment is hard enough. With the rise of phone scams targeting offices, however, it’s important to be aware of what to look out for. Whether or not you have an existing print provider, you may be at risk of losing thousands of dollars to printer ink sellers or toner seller scams.

Here’s all you need to know about printing toner scams, how to spot them, and what to do if you encounter one.

What is a Toner Pirate?

Also called “toner bandits”, toner pirates are scammers that call businesses soliciting toner and other supplies. They often prey on a business owner's ignorance to the true pricing of toner and coax them to buy it at an inflated price. Scammers may take advantage of your staff being unaware that toner is included with your service program.

These criminals might even pretend to be your print provider, and they find out this information by asking a series of strategic questions. For example, they might ask what kind of printer you have, the type of toner you use, or other details about your print fleet.

How to Spot Toner Pirates

Like many other scammers, toner pirates use social engineering or tactics that prey on your trust or emotions through creating urgency under false pretenses. The main signs of toner pirate scam calls include:

  • Toner soliciting of any kind (print services will likely never solicit over the phone)
  • Too-good-to-be-true deals on toner
  • Urgency for you to buy now to take advantage of savings
  • Unprompted questions about your print devices and other information

What if Scammers Pose as My Print Service Provider?

Sometimes it can be hard to discern whether a phone call is originating from your provider or not. The best indicator that you’re dealing with a scam is whether or not you’re expecting a call from your print service provider. If not, they should say who they are right off the bat.

Do not give callers any discerning information about your printer fleet, toner, or the name of your print provider. Most print providers will never try to sell you toner over the phone, as it is most often included in contracts.

For example, Usherwood Office Technology will notify you if you are low on toner using the Odyssey Tracker tool to measure the state of your cartridges. As a print provider, we do not sell toner directly over the phone, and we don’t run any promotions on toner pricing. If someone calls you to sell you toner, it is likely a scam.  When in doubt, tell the callers you will call them back at their 1-800 number if they claim to be your provider.

The Dangers of Faulty Toner Cartridges

Overpaying for toner is not the only danger of buying from scammers. Toner pirates will often sell victims cartridges that aren’t viable or compatible with your machines. Other problems with toner pirate consumables include print security and early failure.  

Print Security Issues

It’s very important to only use toner cartridges from a reputable source, since cartridge microchips can pose security risks otherwise. Experts have proven that printer hackers can gain access to printers by infecting toner cartridge chips with malware, allowing them to then infiltrate business networks.

Because of this, the unknown origins of toner from scammers should be cause for concern. To read more about printer security and how toner can pose a risk, read our blog: Can Toner Cartridges Get Hacked? To learn more about network printer security best practices, read our article: Top 4 Cybersecurity Tools To Look For In A Business Printer.

Early Cartridge Failure

Cartridges should usually last about as long as they are advertised. This is measured not in time – but in pages. If a toner cartridge specifies that it will last for a minimum of 75,000 pages but fails at 35,000, this is called early failure.

Early failure can result from used toner cartridges and can lead to headaches for you and your team if you run out of toner unexpectedly. The first question a print service representative will ask you when toner fails early is where the cartridge came from.

They should be able to see any refills they shipped to you. If they don’t know where the toner you’re having issues with came from, you or your staff may have purchased it from toner pirates.  

Incompatibility Issues With Printers

Toner purchased from non-reputable vendors may have compatibility issues with your devices, leading to error messages. Faulty toners will mean you'll likely need to order new cartridges anyway when you call your provider asking them to service printers.

This can halt your printing capabilities, forcing you to wait idly for new cartridges. For this reason, it's much safer to use only high-quality cartridges provided by your print service.

How to Avoid Being Scammed by Toner Pirates

Educating yourself and your staff on toner scams can significantly reduce your risk of overspending on printer or copy machine toner cartridges.

If you get a call urging you to buy toner for printers in bulk, hang up and call your print provider's listed phone number. Learning to dodge solicitors can save your business from the long, drawn-out headache of printing problems, security breaches, and unnecessary purchases.

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About Jada Sterling, Digital Content Manager

Jada Sterling is Usherwood's Content Manager. She is responsible for developing content that furthers the mission of Usherwood Office Technology by helping clients and prospective clients better understand how technology can help grow their business.