To the office workers who answer the phone, order the supplies, pay the bills and process the paperwork, beware!
You are a target.
Scams designed to deceive office employees are plentiful and diverse. But you can foil the scamsters and protect your employer from losing their hard-earned profits by keeping this article and remembering the guidelines.
Telemarketing scams involving office supplies are among the most common.
The schemes often involve supplies that businesses order regularly, such as copier toner, light bulbs, pencils, cleaning supplies and trash bags.
The phone calls from con artists often originate from out-of-state “boiler room” operations , rooms with banks of phone lines staffed by swindlers who continuously call lists of businesses.
– Techniques To
These tricksters will use various techniques to get the name and address of the person who should be listed on an invoice. For example, they might say they are calling to inquire about the type of supplies the business uses or that they are offering free gifts or catalogs. They can imply they have done business with your company previously or that they’re offering a special sale to re-supply your stock.
In addition, these callers often lie about who they are, send merchandise that wasn’t ordered, misrepresent their products, charge significantly more than what the products are worth, lie in their billing calls and threaten and harass people who complain.
One such fraudulent company recently shut down by the Federal Trade Commission had $55 million in outstanding billings on its books, although it had collected much less.
According to federal law, telephone sellers must disclose that they are calling to sell something. The Telemarketing Sales Rule also prohibits collecting payments for “awards” or “prizes,” bars misrepresentation about goods offered for sale by phone, bans false and misleading claims to induce payment and forbids calls between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.
According to the federal Unordered Merchandise Law, it is illegal for a seller to send you bills or notices for unordered merchandise and ask you to return it, even if the seller offers to pay the shipping expenses.
– Tips For Avoiding
Office Scam Traps
Here’s a few tips to avoid office supply scam traps:
o Telemarketers must tell you it’s a sales call, and who is doing the selling, before they make their pitch.
o Before you pay, telemarketers must tell you the total cost of the products, any restrictions on getting or using them, and that a sale is final.
o Designate specific individuals to be responsible for ordering all supplies. For each order, the designated buyer should issue to the supplier a written purchase order on a standard multiple-copy form with an authorized signature and purchase order number.
o Make sure the items, brands and quantities delivered match your order. Refuse any merchandise that doesn’t conform to the bill of lading, or if the bill of lading doesn’t conform to the purchase order.
o Use written purchase orders and purchase order numbers. Document all orders. Scams can include C.O.D. packages for products worth only a fraction of the amount paid and fake invoices for generic products, like copier paper, that were never delivered.
– Train Employees
o Train your employees or volunteers, especially those who answer the phone or who provide support services. If your employees are not familiar with certain callers, advise them to say something like, “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.”
Here’s a couple of other scams that office workers might encounter:
o Look for phony invoices that may actually be a disguised solicitation rather than a legitimate invoice. There should be a disclaimer, sometimes appearing in yellow ink that’s difficult to read and impossible to photocopy, stating, “This is not a bill, this is a solicitation.”
o Watch for questionable co-op advertising campaigns. The solicitor will ask for a couple of hundred dollars that supposedly will be pooled with other money from businesses for a huge ad campaign to encourage consumers to call an 800 number and get the name of their company. However, in some U.S. markets, the soliciting company has been accused of funneling most of the money to their own bank account and placing ads that nobody noticed.
o Be aware of solicitations for not-yet-printed phone directory books. Because the name “Yellow Pages” and the walking fingers logo are not protected by any federal trademark, they can be used by anyone.
Wilson is president and CEO of the San Diego Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit organization.