Industry Canada

Industry Canada
Competition Bureau Canada

Competition Bureau Canada

March 26, 2007 12:38 ET

Competition Bureau/Stock Your Shelves Cautiously: Avoid Office Supply Scams

FRAUD: Recognize It. Report It. Stop It.

OTTAWA, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - March 26, 2007) - During Fraud Prevention Month, the Competition Bureau is advising businesses to be wary of deceptive telemarketers who may try to contact them promoting the sale of office supplies and services such as toner cartridges.

Deceptive telemarketers have been calling businesses to confirm information such as the correct mailing address and the type of printer the business uses. The caller will ask for the name of the person they are speaking with. The target company is under the impression that they are talking to their regular supplier and provides the requested information.

Businesses may also receive a second call, whereby the telemarketer will say they are calling from the shipping department asking to confirm the company's address for their order. This call is normally taped.

Regardless of whether the toner cartridge is sent, the business will receive an invoice for the cartridge. If payment is not received, the telemarketer will contact the company demanding payment and/or send the company documents such as "FINAL NOTICE".

When the company refuses to pay the bill or tries to send the products back, the scammer either bullies the company into paying by threatening with phoney collection agencies, or negotiating a lower price. Since the prices were extremely high in the first place, the scammer still makes a profit even at the lower price.

Businesses are vulnerable to office supply scams because of their size. With many people in an organization, it is difficult to keep track of when and from whom supplies are ordered.

The Competition Bureau advises businesses to always:

- warn employees about office supply scams;

- ensure employees follow purchasing policies;

- make sure they know what they are buying. Ask questions about the price, quantity and nature of the products promoted by telemarketers;

- ensure that only employees who are authorized to do so order supplies; and

- be wary of odd offers, such as time-limited or special deals.

and never:

- provide confidential information about the makes and models of their office equipment to unknown callers;

- add vendors to their accounts payable systems until they are certain of their legitimacy as business suppliers;

- authorize payment of invoices from unknown suppliers without first verifying who ordered office supplies; or

- order supplies without first confirming the name of the company with which they are dealing.

Telemarketers are required to give consumers information that will help them distinguish legitimate telemarketers from criminals: the name of the company they work for, the value and type of the products they are selling, and any restrictions or conditions that must be met before the product is delivered.

In 2006, the Bureau received nearly 15,000 complaints related to mass marketing fraud. Of these complaints, over 1,200 were in relation to deceptive telemarketing. In the same year, Bureau investigations led to 175 charges against individuals and corporations involved in deceptive telemarketing operations.

The Competition Bureau chairs the Fraud Prevention Forum, which is a concerned group of private sector firms, consumer and volunteer groups, government agencies and law enforcement organizations committed to fighting fraud aimed at consumers and businesses. Through its partners, the Forum works to prevent Canadians from becoming victims of fraud by educating them on how to recognize it, report it and stop it. For more information on the Forum or Fraud Prevention Month, visit: www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/fraud

Contact Information

  • Media enquiries:
    Maureen McGrath
    Competition Bureau
    819-953-8982; 613-296-2187 (cell.)
    or
    General enquiries:
    Information Centre
    Competition Bureau
    819-997-4282; 1-800-348-5358