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Learn how to spot a common office supply scam and how to prevent your business and your employees protected from aggressive and illegal vendor schemes.
Office supply scams take on several forms but generally follow a similar script. They persist because they are so successful.
How Does the Office Supply Scam Work?
Typically, the scam begins with a phone call with the caller asking to confirm an office supply order. If the person answering the phone is unaware, they often confirm the order without verifying it with someone in the know. The supplies arrive a few days later, followed in a few weeks by an invoice.
Often, it’s here where the recipient business catches wind of the deceit and tries to refuse payment. The calls and notices persist, following by automatic shipments of office supplies, incessant calls and invoices, and harsh threats for nonpayment. Even once the initial bill is paid and the business thinks that will end the intrusions, the automated deliveries continue and are difficult to eliminate.
How Can I Protect My Business From These Scams?
There are several steps your business can take to address these scams, including:
- Awareness. Be sure that employees are aware of their roles, including what they should and should not do in such cases, and who is responsible for ordering.
- Consistency. Work only with reputable office supply vendors and make employees aware of which companies your business works with.
- Common Sense. Instead of accepting an unknown delivery, encourage employees to use common sense when fielding such calls, asking them to take down contact information and pass it on to the appropriate employee.
- Firmness. Encourage employees to just say no if they are not the ones responsible for ordering supplies or paying invoices.
- Investigate. Employees who are responsible should investigate every request and invoice instead of paying them automatically.
- Follow Protocols. Make sure your company has processes, including checks and balances, to verify these requests for payment.
Remember that if you did not order office supplies, you are not obligated to pay any invoices that come your way or to return the merchandise, even if you have used it.
What Is the Government Doing About These Scams?
The federal government takes these scams seriously. In recent months, the Federal Trade Commission has announced several significant actions, including:
- Stopping a New York company’s office supply scam. A-1 Janitorial allegedly targeted small businesses, charging them for seemingly free samples of cleaning supplies and other products.
- Refunding victims. In 2018, the FTC returned $647,000 to nonprofit organizations, churches, small businesses and schools that were tricked into paying higher prices for larger quantities of office supplies than had been ordered.
The trick is so common because it’s easy to find victims with small, overworked staffs that are acting too quickly. At LAN Infotech, we help businesses develop systems and processes to keep systems and people protected from technology-related threats and other vulnerabilities. To learn more about Fort Lauderdale’s go-to managed IT services company, schedule a free initial consultation today.